Tel: 01257 251 217

...performance equipment for all athletes and the home of

Open Mon - Fri: 10am to 5pm / Sat: 10am to 4pm

Open Water Swimming… Light At The End Of The Tunnel

March 29, 2015 at 8:42 am
No comment

During the many years I have spent training for triathlon, my experiences of swim training have been largely based upon the following:

I walk through the changing area’s and showers thinking one thing “I hope that space is free by the wall so I can swim up and down without interruption”. As I enter the pool area, I usually find that it’s already been taken by a lady doing breast stroke who is clearly intent on standing her ground and will kick out at anyone who encroaches within 5m of her space. Often I’ve arrived for an early morning opening or just prior to an adult only swim session. Presuming that my triathlon transition skills will get me through the changing area quicker than anyone else, I’m gutted to be beaten by the guy who presumably wore a velcro suit with trunks underneath and he’s already half a length up the pool..

Such experiences lead me to join a local swim session where I was guaranteed that dodging school kids and fighting for pool space will not be required. Here the lanes are ‘roped’ and we swim in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction as governed by the coach, thereby guaranteeing an unimpeded swim. Coupled with that, the coach also separates us by 5 seconds to ensure we ‘swim in our own clear water’. This is bliss, this is how swimming is meant to be, I focus on my stroke technique safe in the knowledge that I have my own lane and my own space. Everything in my swimming world is great, that’s until I participate in an open water mass start event and my swimming world is suddenly turned upside down..

Swimming is 90% technique and I’m consciously competent..

I started swimming at the age of 17 and learned front crawl swimming ‘widths’ before progressing to ‘lengths’. I had no formal tuition until I read more and joined a club. It’s said that there are 4 stages when learning a new skill and I recognise each of them, as follows:

1. Unconsciously incompetent – At first I was ‘crap’ and I didn’t even realise it..
2. Consciously incompetent – Having had it pointed out by a coach and having read some books,  I actually became aware that my technique was ‘crap’. That was a turning point, once I knew it, I could start to think about how to change it.
3. Consciously competent – After many years of practice I was able to swim pretty effectively,  but I still have to think about it at all times or it goes pear shaped..
4. Unconsciously competent – This occurs when someone is so good, they can swim with perfect technique without even thinking about it. I have no idea what this feels like..

Having swam for 20 years, I still find myself at stage 3 and don’t believe I will ever get past that point. When I swim, I have to think about it all the time if I want to do it right. Cycling and running are different, I can watch the scenery go by, have a chat and still manage to do it with pretty good form, but not swimming. this is one of the most frustrating things about swimming, I always have to concentrate and it’s always an effort for this reason. Only real elite swimmers reach stage 4 where they are able to swim with perfect form with no real conscious thought, if you are one of those swimmers, you need to know that not many people reading this blog like you..

So here’s the point, if you want to swim well, unless you are an ‘elite’ swimmer, you always have to think about your stroke technique, you have to focus on what you are doing at all times..

Tunnel vision is not just for Linford

Those who remember Linford Christie will recall that he was famous for his ‘tunnel vision’ stare down the track. Linford’s technique was to block out everything around him and focus purely on himself rather than his surroundings. Sports psychologists would class this as ‘internal focus’ as opposed to ‘external focus’, internal focus is thinking about you and what you’re doing, external focus is thinking about the things around you whether it be another competitor, the weather, the crowd or the scenery.

Swimming in a pool with lane ropes and 5 second gaps between swimmers gives you the perfect opportunity to focus internally. How does your hand enter the water, reach, extend, catch.. and so on? There are no distractions, just you, the water and your own piece of unimpeded space. Imagine what would happen if another swimmer crashed into you during that moment of internal focus.. would you continue to think about your stroke technique or would your focus perhaps change to the person responsible for this interruption??

Here lies the problem with open water swimming.. there are far too many external factors for you to focus on, whether that be the person crashing into you, the waves of water, the mouthful you just swallowed or simply the whole adrenaline powered excitement and surroundings stimulating all your senses. If you’re thinking about the external stuff, you can’t be focused internally and thinking about your stroke. Unless you’ve reached step 4 of the learning process, that’s really going to cost you..

It’s what’s inside that counts..

Internal focus is very simple, you just have to think about yourself and not everything else that’s going on. As a simple example, let’s discuss the steps you can take when lining up for a mass open water start:

1. You need to focus internally so pick something specific to focus on

The easiest thing is to pick a common fault with your stroke as these always get worse under pressure. I pick 2 at the most and my favorites are exhaling fully under water (I find this really helps as exhaling carbon dioxide helps prevent gasping for air and also helps prevent panic attacks) and the other one is a smooth, flowing stroke without pause. My key thoughts at the start are exhale and let it flow..

2. BE AWARE of the switch to external focus, if it happens, calmly note it and then return to internal focus

Only 20m into the swim some dude is very close and going off course across me, I’m aware of him, I’m already a bit irritated and my anxiety is starting to rise. Already I’ve lost focus on my 2 key points which were exhale and let it flow, instead I’m thinking about this guy. At this point I recognise the switch, note that he’s there, relax and return to focus internally.

Maintaining internal focus is very difficult in certain circumstances. Even with 20 years of experience the scenario above can easily lead to the voice in my head saying:

“where is this guy going? He can’t even swim straight.. move over!! move over!! His arm is going to make contact with me if he gets any closer.. maybe I should push him back on course, shall I sprint to get ahead of him or drop back to go behind him??”

As already outlined, I’m at stage 3 of the learning process and rest assured, whilst the voice continues in my head, I’m not exhaling and my stroke is not flowing.. ultimately my performance is suffering. It’s really difficult to master internal focus and during an open water event it is inevitable that you will shift from internal to external several times (including every single knock and bump). As noted previously, this is something of particular importance for those who suffer panic attacks or fail to enjoy open water swimming due to the density of swimmers. Next time you’re in the lake, try the techniques. Simply being aware of your focus is a big step in the right direction and ultimately if you learn to control it, you can use it with great effect to enhance your performances..

If you found this article useful, it would help us a great deal if you share on Facebook, Twitter and social media

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Race day nutrition, how to fuel for endurance racing (part 3)

March 24, 2015 at 7:45 am
No comment

So last week we showed you how to calculate the amount of carbohydrate used during cycling and running, in order for you to produce a structured plan for race nutrition. This week, we begin the process of looking at what and when to eat on race day and the first step, is to explain the basic physiology.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates or ‘sugars’ are a prime source of fuel when exercising and unfortunately, as explain in previous blog posts, they are relatively limited. The term for stored carbohydrate is ‘glycogen’ and we store glycogen in the muscles (to use for movement) and in the liver (to supply sugar to the brain and maintain blood sugar levels)

There are different types of carbohydrates, but ultimately, they are all broken down to glucose as this is what we use as our prime fuel. When you eat or drink carbohydrate, it first goes into your stomach. We can’t absorb carbohydrates through the stomach wall, so they progress from there into the intestines and are absorbed through the intestine wall

The rate of absorption

The carbohydrates you eat are broken into glucose and pass through the intestine wall into the blood stream. Remember that in recent blogs, we’ve stated that the limit for this seems to be around 60g per hour of glucose. Depending upon the type of carbohydrate and how it is consumed (drink or solid food), the time taken for the carbohydrate to be broken down and absorbed will vary.

Many of you will have heard of the ‘Glycemic Index’. This scale was designed with diabetics in mind and it dictates how quickly foods are broken down and absorbed through the intestine wall. To measure the GI of a food is relatively simple (but complex at the same time). The process is to give someone a specific food, then take blood samples at regular intervals for the next hour to see how rapidly the blood sugar (glucose) levels rise.

The ‘GI’ scale runs from 1-100. Foods with a low score will take longer to reach the blood and give a more consistent supply (slow drip feed). Foods which enters the blood stream quickly, will give a more immediate spike in the blood sugar levels. Pure glucose has a score of 100 as that will lead to a rise in blood glucose more quickly than anything else.

The role of insulin

The reason why the GI scale is so important for diabetics, is the ‘insulin response’. A rise in blood glucose will lead to a rise in blood insulin, which is the hormone responsible for removing glucose from the blood and pushing it into the liver and the muscles.

Your daily diet should be made up of foods low on the GI scale. It you eat foods which are high on the GI scale throughout the day, this results in repeated sugar spikes and subsequent insulin spikes. Over time, your insulin will become less effective (overuse can lead to it becoming less sensitive to glucose). The reduced sensitivity can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes (insulin doesn’t work correctly). You may think, as an athlete, you are not susceptible to type 2 diabetes, but you’d be wrong. It is critical for you that your insulin works correctly, so you should be doing everything in your powers to ensure it does.

The secondary issue relating to insulin, is the impact upon fat metabolism. It reduces the amount of circulating fat by encouraging storage in fat tissue. In terms of your daily diet and metabolism, this has significant consequences upon weight loss and fat use. Constant spikes in blood glucose and insulin will reduce the amount of fat you metabolise throughout the day.

Are we discussing daily diet in this blog or race day nutrition?

Okay, I am going off track a bit, but I think it’s important to understand the foundations. As an athlete, you need a constant and balanced supply of energy to complete your training sessions and to recover quickly. Therefore, you should be eating to encourage a more stable metabolism and that is derived from low to moderate GI foods, NOT high GI foods.

So how does this work during racing?

  1. If you are racing an endurance event, you really need to ensure that you have a steady supply of glucose, without disrupting fat metabolism. A large spike in glucose and insulin, could inhibit fat metabolism, which means you’ll be forced to use more glycogen and run out more quickly.
  1. There are times when you may well need a rapid rise in blood glucose. If you have an extreme low point in the race and find yourself sitting on the road side, you may need an ‘instant hit’. Under such circumstances, you need the quickest glucose spike possible to get you back on your feet. At times like this, who cares about insulin!!

Here’s the thing, if you do scenario number 1 correctly, then you shouldn’t experience scenario number 2. The other issue is that products that are sold to deal with scenario number 2 (high energy, quick acting gels) are being used for scenario number 1. If you are half way through a 12 hour event and your energy levels are feeling relatively good, should you take a product which gives you an instant spike in glucose and insulin? Remember, we are aiming for a ‘constant’ and ‘balanced’ blood glucose level, we are trying to avoid blood glucose ‘fluctuations’.

So this blog is not what I intended when I started typing and none of the original planned information has made the page. Needless to say, this 4 part ‘race nutrition’ series is not going to be 4 parts.

A critical point to take away is that over the years of giving advice, we’ve found that the daily diet can have a huge impact upon training and racing performance. In particular, cutting out high GI foods can lead to a dramatic change in metabolism and enhance your fat utilisation.

Your homework for this blog is to take a look at the glycemic index. You’ll find this very interesting and you’ll probably find that many of the foods you presumed to be ‘sugar spiking’ are not and vice versa.

What if I said that Coke had a score of 60, whilst mashed potato AND jacket spuds had a score of 90 (that means mashed potato and jacket spuds can give more of a sugar spike than Coke!!)

You’ll notice that there is also something called ‘glycemic load’. This takes the volume of food into account e.g. you can’t compare a full jacket spud with a teaspoon of glucose as the volume is very different. Don’t worry about that for now, it’ll over-complicate the matter!

Take a look for yourself, and see what’s low and high. There’s loads of them on the internet, Google glycemic index table. Next week we’ll look at the foods you eat during the event. How can you manipulate the use of drinks, bars and gels to maintain a steady blood glucose supply and avoid the fluctuations that we have discussed above. See… I told you there was a point to this blog.

Until then, stay healthy.

If you found this article useful, it would help us a great deal if you share on Facebook, Twitter and social media

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

If you’d like a metabolic assessment, this is a service we offer for £60. We can calculate kcal usage, fat and carbohydrate contribution and overall economy for either cycling or running. Click the METABOLIC ASSESSMENT link on the left hand menu for more info and to book or email testing@theendurancecoach.com

If you’re taking part in Ironman this year and these blogs are helpful, I’ll be speaking Thursday 26th March at an Ironman Charity Evening In Chorley. It’s £10 per ticket, the presentation will be ‘achieve your Ironman bike PB’ all proceeds to children’s cancer charity. Go to: http://www.aneveningofironman.co.uk/

Race day nutrition, how to fuel for endurance racing (part 2)

March 17, 2015 at 11:15 am
2 comments

So last week we finished by talking about how many calories you use during an event and how to make a quick calculation of fat and carbohydrate contributions. To recap, we said:

80/20: If you are struggling to ride 50 miles / run 15 miles even when fuelling yourself throughout, then apply the 80/20 rule. That means 80% of your fuel is carbohydrate and 20% is fat.

65/35: If you can ride 50 miles / run 15 miles comfortably using fuel, then apply the 65/35 rule. That means 65% of your fuel is carbohydrate and 20% is fat.

50/50: If you can ride 50 miles / run 15 miles comfortably without using any fuel whatsoever, then apply the 50/50 rule. That means 50% of your fuel is carbohydrate and 50% is fat.

Let’s give ourselves a simple scenario. Tom is 43, weighs 82 kg and is racing Ironman triathlon, he falls into the 65/35 category and his main objective is to complete the event without major disaster and to run as much of the marathon as possible. When Tom is riding at his Ironman pace, he is using 820 Kcal per hour, so the calculation works like this:

Fat contribution:  820 Kcal x 35% = 287 Kcal

Carbohydrate contribution: 820 Kcal x 65% = 533 Kcal

Step 1: Discard the Fat

The calories which come from fat do not need to be replaced, even the leanest athlete has ample fat stores for the longest endurance events. Step 1 is therefore to discard the Kcal from fat and focus on the carbohydrate contribution. Carbohydrates is the fuel which must be replaced!

Step 2: Focus on the carbohydrate

For Tom, our calculated figure is 533 Kcal of carbohydrate per hour, so this is our target to replace during the ride. It’s often easier to work in grams as most foods are also measured in grams. Each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 Kcal, so we calculate grams of carbohydrate as follows:

533 Kcal per hour / 4 = 133 grams per hour

Step 3: Apply the maximal intake rule

You may remember from the last couple of weeks, we discussed that the maximum amount of carbohydrate you can take during exercise is 60g per hour. Tom is using 133 grams per hour (just to clarify, that’s not excessive and is realistic). If the maximum Tom can take is 60g per hour, that means there’s 73 grams (133-60) that he’s losing and can’t be replaced every hour.

Step 4: Work out the race total

Tom’s bike time is estimated to be 6.5 hours. If he’s losing 73 grams of carbohydrate per hour which can’t be replaced, what does that add up to over the total bike ride? Well, the calculation is simple: 6.5 x 73 = 474.5 grams. That means that Tom will lose 474.5 grams of carbohydrate, which he can’t replace, by the end of the 6.5 hour bike ride.

Step 5: Work out your time to collapse

The big figure missing here is the actual amount you have got stored in your body, is losing 474.5 grams a big problem? The average human stores 400 grams of carbohydrate stored in the muscles,  and 100g is stored in the liver. There’s also approx 25g circulating in your blood at any given time. For the astute amongst you, the problem has already struck you squarely between the eyes. Tom, sadly, will not be running the majority of the Ironman marathon.

Does this happen in the real world?

Definitely, take a look at the photo below. This is some data for an Ironman athlete taken this week, male veteran, approx 68 kg with a long history of endurance competition. There’s 12 minutes of data on the screen, the first column shows the power output (watts) and the third column shows time in minutes. Prior to this the rider warmed up for 10 minutes at 100-120 watts. Now look at columns 11, 13 and 14 on the far right hand side, they show Kcal per hour, fat% and carbohydrate%. Consider that 120/150/170 watts is not high intensity, despite that and the previous warm up, you can see that the carbohydrate use is very high. Take into account that our athlete is only 68 kg and that Kcal per hour will be greater in larger athletes.

IMG_0534

 

 

Would these fugures be similar for running?

Yes, pretty much. The Kcal usage is slightly higher when running at a similar intensity, but the fat usage tends to be a little higher also. I’d suggest that the fat usage is slightly higher as running requires less ‘fast twitch’ fibre contribution, cycling requires a cretain amount of ‘stregth’. Running intensity also tends to be a bit more consistent. Cycling can be hard on the uphill and then rest and freewheel on the downhill, but running is less so.

Should Tom withdraw his entry right now?

Hang on… we know that people can ride the full Ironman bike and then run the marathon. We also know that people run 100 miles, so there’s got to be a catch, these calculations can’t be correct. Will Tom be completely depleted of all carbohydrate even when taking in the recommended 60g every hour?

No, indeed he won’t and the calculations are not so clear cut as above. Your body is pretty clever so it will make some changes along the way to help you out. Throughout the event, your metabolism will switch, so it’s reasonable to suggest that by the time the bike has ended, 50-60% of Tom’s energy will come from fat, rather than the 35% contribution at the start point. That means he’ll only be using half the amount of carbohydrate every hour, compared to when he started.

That’s good right?

In some ways yes it is, it’s saving your carbohydrate stores by halving the amount used every hour. But you need to consider why this change occurs. Your body switches to use a larger amount of fat because it’s ‘RUNNING OUT OF CARBOHYDRATE’ so whilst every cloud does have a silver lining, let’s not look too positively on this change.

As most people struggle to metabolise fat, having to rely upon it will lead to a drop in pace and performance. If we continue our theme of ‘clouds and silver linings’, at least the slower pace means you will be using less Kcal per hour (slower pace = less energy required) so that also helps to reduce the amount of carbohydrate required.

Is anyone else getting concerned here or is it just me?

It’s ok, there is an answer. The 2 key areas for improvement are economy (Kcal per hour) and substrate ulilisation (fat or carbohydrate). If you are aerobically fit, you will be more economical than most people. In fact, for endurance performance, economy is perhaps the most important thing. We can define economy very simply as ‘how much energy do you need to ride or run at any given speed?’

If you take your unfit pub mates for a run, you may well trot along at 8 minutes per mile and hold a comfortable conversation. Your mate on the other hand, may be breathing like a bulldog in a hot car, blowing out of most parts of his body. He will be using far more energy, require far more oxygen and use far more calories. People are like cars, some can go a long way using only a small amount of fuel and some require a regular filling due to their poor economy.

The second thing to consider is substrate utilisation. This simply refers to the relative contributions of fat and carbohydrate towards your total energy need. We’ve discussed this above and in pretty much every blog in the last 6 weeks, so hopefully you’re already familiar with this concept. If more of your energy comes from fat, you’re less likely to run out of carbohydrate. The best athletes in the world require a small amount of energy (Kcal) to ride or run at race speed. If a large chunk of that energy requirement comes from fat, their total carbohydrate use is very small indeed.

The new Tom… we can rebuild him

By making changes to Tom’s training and diet, the new version arrives for the Ironman triathlon using only 700Kcal per hour and 55% is being provided by fat. A quick maths calculation reveals the following:

1. He’s using 315 Kcal of carbohydrate per hour on the bike, compared to the previous figure of 533

2. With his intake of 60 grams per hour (240 Kcal), he now only has a deficit of 75 Kcal per hour compared previously with 292 Kcal (73 grams)

3. As a consequence, Tom runs the whole marathon and Tom becomes a LEGEND…..

Do you want to become a legend? If so, do the calculations and work it out for yourself, then let’s go forwards from here.

Next week we’ll look at the 60g intake and answer the key question: drinks? gels? bars? malt loaf? flapjack or for the Wiganers amongst you… Pies?

Until then, stay healthy.

If you found this article useful, it would help us a great deal if you share on Facebook, Twitter and social media

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

If you’d like a metabolic assessment, this is a service we offer for £60. We can calculate kcal usage, fat and carbohydrate contribution and overall economy for either cycling or running. Click the METABOLIC ASSESSMENT link on the left hand menu for more info and to book or email testing@theendurancecoach.com

If you’re taking part in Ironman this year and these blogs are helpful, I’ll be speaking Thursday 26th March at an Ironman Charity Evening In Chorley. It’s £10 per ticket, the presentation will be ‘achieve your Ironman bike PB’ all proceeds to children’s cancer charity. Go to: http://www.aneveningofironman.co.uk/

 

The most important part of successful open water swimming is achieved before you even get in..

March 12, 2015 at 12:38 pm
No comment

As open water coaches we are asked “what’s the most important thing regarding open water swimming” and the answer is simple. Firstly get a suit which fits you correctly, generally a right fitting suit feel too tight to most people and as a consequence they get one which is too big.. The second most important thing is putting it on correctly, if the suit isn’t worn correctly, you are massively increasing the resistance upon your shoulders which very quickly leads to fatigue. Follow these simple steps before each swim:

  1. Start at your ankles, step into the suit and pull the lower legs of your suit until the lower border of the legs are approximately 6 inches above your ankle bones (your knees should still be visible).
  2. Once you have the lower legs in then correct position pull the remainder of the legs up over your knees and then you thighs until the suit is up to your waist. At this point there should be no ‘saggy crotch’ and the neoprene should fit tightly against your nether regions.
  3. If you have a ‘saggy crotch’ then start again, if you don’t then you can continue
  4. Place your arms into the wetsuit so you are covering your lower arms only, do not allow the wetsuit to cover your upper arms and shoulders. The border of the wetsuit arms found at your wrist should be pulled up until they are 2 inches above your actual wrist or watch position.
  5. Once the wetsuit wrists are correct, pull the wetsuit sleeve to cover the remainder of your arms and shoulders, smooth out any wrinkles by moving them upwards towards your shoulders, DO NOT smooth out wrinkles by pushing them downwards towards your wrist, maintain the 2 inch gap between the wetsuit border and your actual wrist or watch.
  6. Ask you partner to zip up your suit (note that if you can zip it up yourself its probably too big). Be sure that the excess material at the neck is folded into the correct position so it does not rub your neck. Pull up the zip, there will be a piece of neoprene which fastens across the zip, ensure that the zip tether is above this before fastening to ensure that the zip will not come down if someone grabs it during the swim.
  7. Secure the end of the tether so it does not get in the way when swimming. the easiest thing is to tuck the end of the tether under your swim cap at the rear, this ensures that you always know where it is as you enter transition and can easily grab it to unzip your suit.

What are the most common errors when purchasing a wetsuit?

Generally the most common mistake are people buying wetsuits which are too big for them. A correct fitting wetsuit can feel a little oppressive at times and you may feel ‘vacuum packed’ into it. The fit must be snug and the flexibility of the neoprene will allow you to move. don’t make the common mistake that you ‘need some room’ for movement, it’ll fill with water and drag.

The second most common mistake is buying by brand. People have a pre-set idea that they want a 2XU or a Zone3 suit before they enter the shop. Each manufacturer has a slightly different fit and each person is different. it’s common for certain brands on certain people to be tight or baggy around the waist, shoulders and the neck area. The fastest wetsuit for you is the one which fits you the best, irrelevant of the brand. If you wanted a 2XU bu the Zone3 fits better, you should buy the Zone3, it’s simple logic.

Finally, you should be prepared for wetsuit damage. Modern wetsuits are made from very soft material to enhance flexibility. Catching it with your finger nails is enough to put a small tear in the outer fabric (won’t go all the way through). Prepare yourself for this, as your shiny new suit will accumulate small tears within a matter of weeks, all manufacturers are the same. It won’t affect the performance of the suit so don’t get too hung up on superficial marks and damage.

Come in and see us:

The Endurance Store
Appley Lane North
Appley Bridge
Wigan
WN6 9AE
01257 251217

Regards

The Endurance Store

Race day nutrition, how to fuel for endurance racing (part 1)

March 9, 2015 at 1:26 pm
5 comments

In recent blogs, we’ve discussed the 2 main fuel sources for endurance exercise (fat and carbohydrate) and how you should optimise your body to burn fat, thereby allowing you to save precious carbohydrate stores. When it comes to race day then the game and the rules change completely. As a recap (you can check previous blogs for more details), when training you should:

1. Ride or run at the correct intensity or follow a specific protocol such as Maffetone
2. Avoid fluctuations in intensity, remember that average heart rate or power output are NOT the critical figures, it’s TIME IN ZONE that counts
3. Eat foods which are balanced with low GI carbohydrates and fats to encourage fat usage and avoid sugar spikes
4. Avoid gels and sugar products based on point 3 above

If you follow the above guidance, over a 12-16 week training period, you can teach your body to utilise a greater amount of fat as fuel and also to use less calories overall, making you more economical. The important thing to remember is that ‘training’ and ‘racing’ are 2 separate things and your fueling approach should reflect this.

What happens during the race?

Okay, let’s presume that you have trained correctly and maximised your fat burning potential and fuel economy. You reach the first event of the year and when riding or running at race pace you are using 700kcal per hour, 50% of which comes from carbohydrate and 50% of which comes from fat. You only need to worry about the carbohydrate loss as that’s the one which is critical, so let’s focus on the 350kcal of carbohydrate which equates to 88 grams of carbohydrate (4 kcal per gram).

The limitation of carbohydrate intake

Here’s the big problem, you can only absorb approximately 60g of carbohydrate per hour. Imagine that there are small boats, which ‘ferry’ carbohydrate across the intestine wall into your blood stream. Unfortunately you only have so many ‘ferry boats’ so no matter how much carbohydrate you throw in there, the amount which can be ferried is limited to a pretty standard 60g. For our example above, that means that you’re going to fall short. You’re using 88 grams per hour and you can only replace 60 grams per hour. That’s a 28 gram / 112 kcal per hour deficit.

So I can’t just eat more?

Unfortunately not. If you eat more, it’s unlikely to be digested and will simply sit in your stomach or intestines without providing energy. There are a lot of people who suffer from gastric problems during long distance events and this is generally caused by eating too much food which they are unable to digest. It’s really important that you understand, eating more food doesn’t mean you’ll have more energy and it may well mean that you’ll face stomach upsets. I stress this point knowing how obsessed Ironman athletes in particular become with regards to feeding on the bike.

A deficit of 112 Kcal per hour doesn’t sound too bad

No, it doesn’t. But that is based on the presumption that you are only using 700kcal per hour, bigger people and less efficient people may be using more. It’s also based on the assumption that 50% is coming from fat and that may not be the case at all, in fact, as much as 80-100% may be coming from carbohydrate. What makes this worse is that bigger people can’t necessarily take on board more fuel, the 60g limit still pretty much applies. It’s a gut issue, it’s not about how big your muscles are and how much you can store in there.

So the 3 things you might want to know are:

1. How many calories do I burn per hour?
2. How many of them come from fat and carbohydrate?
3. How much should I be taking in as a consequence?

As a start point, you can probably work out your calorie usage by using a heart rate monitor or power meter. Run or ride at race pace and it’ll do the calculation for you, although the power meter is a lot more accurate than the heart rate monitor, it’s still a start point. Warm up, then do an hour at your ‘race pace’ and work out the figures. It’s amazing how many people who consider their training and racing to be ‘serious’, still have no clue how many kcal they use when racing. How can you have any grasp of nutrition requirements without knowing this figure? Once you’ve calculated that figure, apply the following rule:

80/20: If you are struggling to ride 50 miles / run 15 miles even when fuelling yourself throughout, then apply the 80/20 rule. That means 80% of your fuel is carbohydrate and 20% is fat.

65/35: If you can ride 50 miles / run 15 miles comfortably using fuel, then apply the 65/35 rule. That means 65% of your fuel is carbohydrate and 20% is fat.

50/50: If you can ride 50 miles / run 15 miles comfortably without using any fuel whatsoever, then apply the 50/50 rule. That means 50% of your fuel is carbohydrate and 50% is fat.

Are those figures accurate?

Absolutely not, I just made them up. They are by no means 100% accurate but they will give you a good start point and will allow you to calculate an approximate figure. The running figures are less ‘straight forwards’ than the cycling, as the impact of running can really fatigue your legs, so you may find 15 miles difficult, even if your fat burning and fuel economy is good. for cycling, the impact is low, so it’s more likely governed by metabolism and fuel.

Ok, so what’s the next step?

Here’s what we’re going to do. Prior to next week you are going to do a 1 hour ride or run at your ‘race pace’ and then using your cycle power meter, GPS or heart rate monitor, calculate how many calories per hour you are using when exercising at that intensity. I feel this is a pretty important thing for you to understand if you are to race successfully. It’s easy with a power meter for cycling, it does the maths for you. Most heart rate monitors will use your age and weight to work out kcal per hour. There are some tools on the internet such as: http://www.braydenwm.com/calburn.htm which can help to give you a basic idea.

Go forwards my endurance friends and do the maths, next week, we will be looking at planning your intake.

Until then, stay healthy.

If you found this article useful, it would help us a great deal if you share on Facebook, Twitter and social media

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

If you’d like a metabolic assessment, this is a service we offer for £60. We can calculate kcal usage, fat and carbohydrate contribution and overall economy for either cycling or running. Click the METABOLIC ASSESSMENT link on the left hand menu for more info and to book or email testing@theendurancecoach.com

If you’re taking part in Ironman this year and these blogs are helpful, I’ll be speaking Thursday 26th March at an Ironman Charity Evening In Chorley. It’s £10 per ticket, the presentation will be ‘achieve your Ironman bike PB’ all proceeds to children’s cancer charity. Go to: http://www.aneveningofironman.co.uk/

 

Swimmers, avoid the dreaded DEAD SPOT and swim faster

March 8, 2015 at 3:58 pm
No comment

In last week’s blog post we discussed both stroke length / distance per stroke and stroke rate / strokes per minute. If you count the number of strokes you take each 25m length of the pool, this is termed stroke count and is a guide to stroke length / distance per stroke e.g. if you take 25 strokes per 25m length, you are traveling 1m per stroke… simple!!

Stroke rate is a little more difficult to measure as it’s not something simple you can count in your head. Stroke rate is how quickly you move your arms, generally measured as ‘strokes per minute’. It is ‘similar’ to cadence when running and cycling, except it refers to your arms rather than legs. I suggested the use of a tempo trainer to help gauge stroke rate. If you didn’t read last week’s blog, you might want to check that first by CLICKING HERE

So this is pretty simple, If I want to swim faster I just speed up my arms?

Unfortunately no, some people can easily speed up their stroke rate and other find it very difficult. The reason for this is that the ‘timing’ of your stroke will dictate how quickly you can move your arms. Timing refers to the sequence of your arm movement, in simple terms, what is one arm doing in comparison to the other at any given time. How do both arms interact? There is a whole spectrum of stroke timing but we commonly refer to 2 main types and categorise swimmers as either ‘catch up’ or ‘windmill’.

1. Windmill stroke is when the hands/arms are at opposite ends of the clock face. As one hand enters, the other is leaving the water (9/3 o’clock) or as one hand pulls under the body, the other recovers above the water (6/12 o’clock). It is very easy to increase stroke rate and swim quickly over short distances with a windmill stroke. Sprint swimmers tend to swim with a windmill stroke as this is the most effective.

2. Catch up stroke is named so, based upon the catch up drill. As your left arm enters and reaches out to full extension in the water, there is a pause (THE DEAD SPOT) before starting the catch/pull,  whilst the right arms recovers and almost catches up with the left hand. It is very difficult to increase stroke rate and swim quickly over short distances with a catch up stroke.

The catch up style stroke was made very popular by total immersion swimming and triathletes in particular favored this type of stroke timing. The benefits include a more streamlined shape in the water (longer position) and a more balanced position (the outreached arms acts as counterbalance to keep head down and legs up). It also favors a much slower stroke rate and longer gliding which is physically less exerting. The issue for triathlon and in particular open water swimming performance, is THE DEAD SPOT.

What is the dead spot?

Water is very dense and therefore difficult to move through efficiently. You can help to minimise resistance by improving your streamlined position in the water, but ultimately you need some kind of propulsion to keep you moving forwards. In simple terms, if your arms aren’t pulling, you won’t glide far before you stop. A windmill stroke provides continuous propulsion, as one hand stops pulling and leaves the water, the other has started pulling at the front end. This continuous ‘kayak paddling’ like action keeps the body moving forwards at all times, not allowing it to slow down and lose momentum. When swimming with a catch up style stroke, there is a ‘DEAD SPOT’ where neither arm is pulling and providing propulsion. As the right hand enters and extends to full reach, it then pauses whilst the left arm recovers above the water. Rather than continuous propulsion, the catch up style stroke works on the basis of pull, glide, pull, glide, pull, glide.. as opposed to pull, pull, pull, pull pull..

What’s the problem?

Ever swam in a pool when nobody else is in there? The water is flat and still and it feel fantastic to glide through the perfect water. When you’re joined by other swimmers thrashing up and down and the water is churned up like a washing machine, that gliding sensation seems to disappear pretty quickly. It’s the same when swimming open water, if it’s choppy and churned your gliding is reduced and you need to maintain a continuous forwards propulsion. Catch up style swimmers will suffer most in these conditions and some can almost come to a halt during the dead spot due to reduced gliding.

What’s the answer?

I said earlier that there’s a whole spectrum of stroke timing and we have discussed the two ends of that spectrum, you are likely to lie somewhere between the two. It’s important to know your stroke type and this is critical for future improvements. My simple advice is to avoid the dead spot at all costs when pool or open water swimming and to ensure your stroke rate is between 55-65 strokes per minute. Start with simple things, as your hand enters the water and extends forwards, move straight into the catch and pull, don’t allow it to pause and glide. Purchase a tempo trainer and calculate your current stroke rate. Use the trainer to increase your stroke rate during specific sessions and use it hold rhythm as you get tired, rather than  slowing your stroke rate.

If you found this blog post useful, please help us by sharing in on social media, Facebook and Twitter

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Pacing strategy for endurance events, focus on the process

March 3, 2015 at 11:00 am
No comment

So last week we discussed training at the correct intensity during long, endurance sessions. This week, we are following a similar theme but we are focusing more on race strategy and how to pace yourself during an event. Many of the things we’ve discussed in the past weeks are critical not just for training but also during competition, so let’s complete an overview of past topics and how they relate to race pacing:

  1. For longer events, fat utilisation is critical to prevent glycogen stores depleting quickly. You should have optimised this in training beforehand, but during your race, riding and running at the correct intensity is critical. If your race pace is too quick, then you are in danger of running your glycogen stores low, resulting in a poor performance.
  1. Maintain a constant intensity and avoiding spikes is also critical. If you push hard on uphills and recover on the downhills, your intensity will vary greatly throughout the race. Remember, when you pick your intensity for any event, average figures (average heart rate or average power) or pretty useless as a guide. You need to hold the intensity constant, with little change in intensity. If you aim to ride or run at a heart rate figure of 130 beats per minute, then set yourself a tight range of 125-135 for the duration of the event. Slow on the uphills and hold pace on the flat and downhills.
  1. Avoid the fast start or you’ll suffer later in the event. It’s very clear watching ironman races, marathon and ultra races that at least 90% of the field start at a quicker pace than they finish. There are 3 main reasons for this: The first is that you are fresh, so going hard feels easy. Coupled with this, you have an adrenaline shot at the start, so this exaggerates how good you feel. The killer shot is the fact that everyone else feels the same, so they all go too quick and it takes a very brave person not to react and follow everyone else!

There is an element of sheer panic for many people during the first hour of an event, when riders and runners are streaming past them at a quicker pace. From a psychological standpoint, this is incredibly difficult to handle, so we inevitably end up going with the flow of traffic and picking up our pace.

Here’s the thing, most of those people passing you in the early hours of an ironman bike course, or the opening miles of an ultra race, will be walking huge chunks of the event in the latter stages. If your better pacing means that you are still running in the latter stages, any time losses now will be erased and reversed without any issues whatsoever. In fact, many of them might actually drop out and not even finish!! This is the most important race of the year for you, having spent 12 months preparing, are you going to blindly follow someone who is pacing the event badly? Knowing deep inside that you’re riding or running at the wrong pace, are you going to chase them, only to ‘blow up’ in spectacular fashion later in the day and destroy your chances of a great performance? Sound stupid? Well that’s how a lot of people race.

Focus on the process and not on the outcome

Let’s make this very simple. In a long distance endurance event, you can only go at the pace that YOU are able to sustain for the duration of the event, what everyone else does, should not affect your race strategy. Prior to your event, you should have a pre-set intensity that you are intending to sustain. You may have a power meter on your bike to measure watts or you may have a heart rate monitor to gauge how hard you are working. Once you have that pre-set intensity, you should stick to it and ignore all other competitors. This concept is termed ‘process orientated’ as opposed to ‘goal orientated’ racing.

What’s the difference?

Goal orientated is simple, you set a target of 12 hours for your event and you swim, ride or run as fast as required to achieve that 12 hour time. It doesn’t matter if you’re going quicker than you can handle, you simply chase the pre-set time. Process orientated refers to you focusing on the process of swimming, cycling and running at the right pace. Following a nutrition plan and doing all the things you’ve trained to do beforehand. You focus on the process only and ultimately, when you reach the line, the finish time is whatever the finish time is. What’s key, is that is you focus well on the processes, your finish time will be the best you are capable of on that day.

Process orientated racing works best in longer events as tactics play less of a role. You can’t control who enters the event and you can’t control how well those people race. As a consequence, you cannot control your finish position at the end of the day. The only thing you CAN control is your own pacing and race strategy, to give you the best possible chance of achieving the finish time you hoped for.

Live in the here and now

Ultimately, whilst you will have a pre-set pacing plan, you will have to be flexible on the day. Your pacing strategy and other actions should be based on the ‘here and now’. You should be making regular checks and asking yourself how you feel at that moment in time and whether there is anything you need to do as a consequence. For example, if you had planned to run at 5 minutes per Km pace and you feel that pace slowing, then you should not panic. Instead, think about what you need to do at that time to solve the problem. Do you need to eat and drink? Do you need to slow a little? Be flexible, don’t just continue in a blind manner trying to hold the same pace or it will result in a major collapse.

One of the key things to remember when competing in long distance events such as Ironman or ultra running is that energy can fluctuate. In a simple marathon race, you tend to feel ok at the start and then gradually get worse as the event progresses. In an Ironman marathon or ultra race, you can have patched where you have to walk because you feel so low, but 5 miles later, you may be running at a strong pace.

When you have a drop in energy, don’t lose focus and don’t lose your head. That’s the point where lots of people just give up, start walking and never start running again. Focus on the here and now, what do you have to do to solve the problem and get back to the plan? Whatever happens, you can only be as good as you can be on that particular day. If you focus on the processes, you’ll know that when you cross that line, that’s as good as you are, for today at least.

If you found this blog useful, we’d really appreciate if you would please share it on Facebook or Twitter

Go forwards endurance students and pace yourselves…

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Stroke Rate V Stroke Count, and why it’s critical for swim performance..

February 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm
No comment

What is Stroke Count?

Stroke count is the number of strokes you take each length of the pool. You count both your left and your right arm strokes and most amateur swimmers generally require somewhere between 16-30 strokes to complete 1 length of a 25m pool.

What is stroke rate?

Stroke rate is the number of strokes you take in a single minute, in essence, this is the speed of your stroke. It is very much like cycling cadence (the number of times your legs turn round in a minute). Most amateur swimmers generally have a stroke count of 40-70 strokes per minute.

How do the 2 interact?

We have tested hundreds of people over the last 5 years and compared the relationship between stroke count and stroke rate. The assessment used was the 20 minute swim test as recommended in previous blog posts and throughout the test we measured stroke count at the start / middle / end, much like you will have done if you completed the test yourself. We also measure stroke rate at the start / middle / end to see how the ‘count’ and ‘rate’ interact.

What we generally always find is that the stroke count does not change throughout the test. The swimmers will take the same number of strokes per length at the start / middle / end of the test, so fatigue has no bearing on stroke count. However, their stroke rate will start relatively high and gradually decrease throughout the test. Their arm cadence becomes slower and slower and this is the reason for them slowing down as the 20 minute test progresses.

In simple terms, fatigue DOES NOT change your stroke count, it DOES change your stroke rate. You continue to take the same number of strokes each length, but your arms get slower as you get more tired.

SWOLF

Many triathletes will have heard the term ‘SWOLF’ which is an abbreviated for ‘SWIM GOLF’. If you own a GPS watch with swimming settings, it may well include a SWOLF function. SWOLF is simply adding together the number of strokes you take each length (stroke count) to the number of seconds it takes to swim the length. For example, if you swim one length in 30 seconds and take 20 strokes, your SWOLF score is 50. You can reduce your score by taking less strokes and gliding more (e.g. reducing from 20 to 17 strokes) but this often results in people swimming slower (e.g. increasing from 30 to 33 seconds) and thereby not improving their SWOLF score. SWOLF is a great example of why stroke count alone is not the answer to faster swimming.

How do I know what my stroke count actually is and whether its changing?

Simple, you just count the number of strokes required to swim 1 length of the pool, count each time your left and right hands enter the water.

How do I know whether my stroke rate is slowing down throughout the test?

Here lies the problem.. you don’t know what it is at any time during your swim and there’s no way of knowing if your arm cadence is slowing. There are some key points you should know about stroke rate:

1. One of the simplest ways to enhance your swim training is to calculate your current stroke rate and then during your swim sessions don’t let it slow down as you get tired, maintain the same arm cadence.
2. If you exaggerate your glide you are likely to have with a low stroke rate. You should try to increase your stroke rate as this is your key area for improvement.
3. In open water, a low stroke rate and a ‘long gliding stroke’ does not work well. Your body glides best through still water, so during a rough open water swim, you quickly lose momentum and come to a halt. A high arm turnover keeps you moving forwards and is therefore more efficient.

How can I hold or improve stroke rate during my swim sessions??

This is without a doubt, the single best piece of kit you can buy to help your swim training:

http://www.theendurancestore.com/proddetail.php?prod=finistempotrainerproaudiblemetronome

This is a waterproof metronome which has a clip to attach to your goggles, although I would recommend you don’t use the clip, but place the metronome under your cap. Before you do this, you can alter the ‘audible bleep’ to match your stroke rate e.g. 60 bleeps per minute. When you swim, you swim to the bleeps, maintain the same stroke rate / arm cadence and don’t fall behind the metronome.

If you have a low stroke count / rate, you should use this device to gradually increase your stroke rate. You can increase the bleeps per minute by 1-2 each week, allowing your stroke to adapt. You may need to start by adjusting/playing with the device in the pool to work out what your current stroke rate actually is. Your stroke rate will also naturally change depending upon your session intensity and it is governed largely by the type of stroke you have, i.e. ‘catch up style’ or ‘windmill style’.

Example stroke rates are:

Level 3 sessions = 50-60 SPM

Level 4 sessions = 55-65 SPM

Level 6 sessions = 65 + SPM

The tempo trainer can also be used as a pacing tool. For example, if your level 3 pace is 1:40 per 100m, you can set it to bleep every 25 seconds and you should be turning as you hear the bleep if you’re on pace.

Do not underestimate how much difference this little device can make to your training and swimming performance.

If you found this blog post useful, please share on social media and support Swim Club.

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Fat burning efficiency for endurance athletes (part 5)

February 24, 2015 at 12:35 pm
2 comments

Over the last 4 weeks, we’ve discussed how you can manipulate your diet to enhance fat burning and your endurance performances. This week, we look at the missing piece of the jigsaw, which is training intensity and more importantly, pacing strategy.

The basics of fat metabolism for endurance athletes are simple and based on 2 key factors. First, you can change your diet in some way to enhance fat usage (e.g. riding / running fasted). Next, you can adopt a ride / run strategy (intensity and pacing), which encourages fat usage during training and racing. You can opt to do only one or the other of these things, but in reality, if you couple them both together you’ll have the biggest impact.

We’ve discussed diet, so today we are going to talk about ride and run strategy in terms of pacing and intensity, for running and cycling. So let’s outline some of the basic things, which you may already know and if not, you need to know:

  1. I stressed last week that every session should have a key objective and therefore a key intensity to obtain that objective. The biggest error is people doing ‘hard stuff too easy’ and ‘easy stuff too hard’. Generally they are linked by the fact that if you do the ‘easy stuff too hard’ you’re too knackered the following day to do the ‘hard stuff hard’. As a result, everything tends to fall into a grey, middle area.
  2. The 2 key objectives of the long easy session for ironman competitors or marathon and ultra runners are generally to utilise fat for better fuel economy and to ‘complete the distance’ (time in the saddle or time on feet). If you don’t ride at the correct intensity, you will hit neither of those objectives, due to the following problems:
  3. At lower intensities, total energy expenditure (kcal per hour) is lower and fat usage is higher. This means that only a small amount of energy comes from carbohydrates and your body has the opportunity to practice using fat, which is necessary for the process to become more efficient. OBJECTIVE 1: If you do not run / ride at the correct intensity, you will not develop effective fat burning.
  4. Because riding and running at a higher intensity uses more energy and generates more muscular fatigue, it’s not rocket science that you will have to stop earlier. This is NOT just based on fat / fuel usage, there are other factors at play related to muscle damage and fatigue. As a result, many ironman triathletes or marathon and ultra runners are not reaching target distances and stopping short on long rides or runs. OBJECTIVE 2: If you do not run / ride at the correct intensity, you will not be able to reach your target distances for your training rides and runs.

As outlined above, the 2 key objectives are enhancing fuel use and maximising distance and to achieve both, the intensity must be correct. If you’re using Maffetone as discussed 4 weeks ago, then you’re all set. If you’re not then for most people, the intensity we are discussing is zone 1, which is comfortable conversation pace.

You can use heart rate to monitor your training intensity and cyclists can also use power devices to do the same job. Let’s take heart rate as an example and consider the following scenario as an example:

Tom has a zone 1 cycling heart rate of 118-128 and uses his heart rate monitor when completing all his ironman cycle training. We know that Tom will maximise both his fat usage and can maximise his training distance by holding his heart rate steady within Zone 1.

Avoiding the spikes

One key thing to take into account when riding in Zone 1 is avoiding spikes. If Tom completed his long Sunday ride and reported an average heart rate of 124, it first appears that he has ridden to plan. Unfortunately upon closer inspection, he spent half his time at a heart rate of 148 climbing hills and the other half of his time at 100 rolling down the other side, thereby generating an average of 124. Whilst the AVERAGE looks correct, the TIME IN ZONE was very poor.

Every time you push hard on hills and allow your heart rate to rise out of Zone 1, your metabolism switches from high fat usage to high carbohydrate usage. Not only is there a switch to carbohydrate, you guzzle the fuel as if there’s no marathon to come. I would liken this to driving your car and every time you reach a hill, changing into first gear and flooring the accelerator, for those old enough to remember you can also pull the choke out for good measure.

OBJECTIVE 1: Tom is not practicing fat burning during his ride. Every time he pushes on the hills, fat usage ‘drops out’ and only returns when the body has stabilised a few miles later.

OBJECTIVE 2: Tom is guzzling fuel at such a high rate, he completes 60 miles of his planned 100 mile ride and is pretty knackered so calls it a day. Tom feels that despite the event being 112 miles (plus the marathon to follow), 60 will suffice. Good luck with that one Tom.

Q: Surely if I’m riding harder that’s more beneficial as my fitness will improve?

A: Not really, you’ve failed on both key objectives. If your training is planned correctly, you should be doing other sessions which will include ‘harder riding or running’ to cover that aspect of fitness.

Where does this all this go wrong?

  1. Riding very hilly courses makes it difficult to keep heart rate in zone 1 and it also makes it difficult to ‘flat line’ heart rate, keeping it constant and avoiding spikes. You need to really focus on ‘backing off’ on the climbs and using a heart rate or power meter as a guide.
  2. Riding in a group makes this problem 10 times worse as most cyclists will naturally want to show their counterparts (tends to be relevant for blokes, not women) that they are stronger than anyone else in the group. As a result, Sunday rides can tend to be a short hard interval up each hill, followed by long periods of recovering and spinning at low intensity.

Key points to take away:

  1. Ride to zone and most important, you need to take out the spikes on the hills, to maximise metabolic benefits.
  2. Start easy on your ride. There is a real tendency amongst amateur athletes to ride way too hard in the first hour or two, which results in a huge drop off later in the ride (again, this is more likely in groups). Hold back and soft pedal for the first couple of hours to allow a long aerobic warm up and better energy levels later in the ride.
  3. If you ride with others, your options are to explain the benefits to them and change their mentality, let them go on the hills, change your group or ride alone.
  4. If you are riding more consistently in zone 1, you should make every effort to maximise distance. If you are currently riding 60 miles or running 13 miles in training, by dropping and controlling the heart rate, you should be capable of increasing the distance and progressing closer to 100 for cycling or 20 for running.

Swim Club sessions L6, thrashing a bit?

February 23, 2015 at 9:10 am
4 comments

What is Technique Threshold?

Technique threshold is a term I made up many years back to define the point at which an athlete’s technique falters, you can apply it to swimming, cycling or running (plus any other sport!). When you are swimming, your nervous system has to coordinate your limbs and ensure they move correctly. Coordination becomes more difficult when the movement becomes more complex or has to be done faster. For example, coordinating your fingers to hit the right keys on a piano keyboard is easy when you do it very slowly with a single finger. Using multiple fingers and playing at speed is a different challenge altogether.

A lot of triathlon and open water swimmers have a very low technique threshold, because they spend a lot of time swimming slowly and moving their arms slowly. This is particularly true for those competing over longer distances.

When swimming slow, the nervous system can coordinate your arms without any problems, but when you try to do it quickly, everything goes wrong and it feels like your swimming has transformed into an uncoordinated thrash!! When swimmers attempt to complete L6 sprint swim sessions, they feel as though they are ‘thrashing’ so they take the following steps:

1. They slow their arms down and swim more slowly to hold ‘good technique’ (we’ve been told so many times that you should always try to swim with good technique)
2. Because they are now swimming slower the fatigue is lower and therefore they feel the recoveries are way too long when doing short / sprint sessions
3. They therefore decide to cut the recoveries short as this feels like the obvious thing to do

By taking the above actions, you are likely to stay at one pace and in effect, you are turning the L6 sprint session into an L4 threshold session (swimming at a steadier pace). In truth, many triathletes and long distance swimmers are completely unable to swim fast for even short periods, they are very much ‘one paced’.

What’s the answer?

The answer most definitely isn’t to avoid doing something because you find it difficult. L6 intensity is ‘maximal’ and therefore your intervals should be ‘maximal’, that DOES NOT mean the fastest pace you can hold whilst still using good form, it means maximal. To raise your technique threshold, you may well have to ‘look ugly’ for a few weeks.. commit to 100% effort, make your arms turn over faster, thrash the water and feel uncoordinated.. if you keep doing this, pretty quickly your nervous system will catch up and your coordination will improve.

IMPORTANT: These sessions ARE NOT about developing power or strength, they are about developing your coordination so your limbs can move efficiently at speed. The outcome of the sessions are to develop your ‘technique’ and break you out of the swimmer’s plod and enable you to swim long distances at a much higher pace.

If you persist with the sprint sessions and carry them out as instructed, you will notice a rise in your L3/L4 pace for no extra effort, purely due to better coordination, resulting in greater efficiency (a drop in energy).

Stay streamlined
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store
Probably the best triathlon and swimming shop on the planet..
Definitely the best staff…

Next Page »