Are you in the zone?

Our testing facility has been open in Cardiff for a couple of months and we have already provided individuals with a plethora of useful data to apply to their training. Our VO2 Max test not only provides an athlete with a VO2 Max score but also during the test our equipment picks up an individual’s aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. It uses these (with your peak heart rate rate) to create four unique training zones. Below I have laid out results of VO2 Max tests for 6 different athletes we have tested recently. Individuals have been paired based on their similar VO2 max scores and through some information gathering I can suggest they are at a similar point along their endurance career too. We could suggest A&B = novice, C&D = experienced age group athlete, E&F = elite age group athlete.     

In the second column, peak heart rate (HR), this is the highest beats per minute reached during the VO2 Max ramp test. You have likely heard of the theory 220 – Your Age = Maximum Heart Rate. We can see that only athletes B and C fall in line with this theory. The other 4 athletes are between 12 and 18 bpm out from the theory.

Third column, anaerobic threshold (AT), our equipment highlights this point during the ramp test. It is the point at which anaerobic processes become more dominant and lactic acid begins to accumulate above resting levels in the body.   

Fourth column, VO2 Max, measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. The maximum amount of oxygen an individual can use during intense exercise, sometimes referred to as ‘the size of your engine.’

Fifth column, essentially how much of your engine can you use for a sustained effort. An average person (not average athlete) would score around 70%. Elite athletes can score 88-94%.

Sixth column, based on the test data our software creates unique training intensity zones. I have just picked one zone to show you here, the results actually provide four (Low, Moderate, High & Peak). The ‘moderate’ or aerobic endurance zone is the area where endurance athletes will spend most of their training, so it could be said is the most important one to get right.

Seventh column, for comparison I have taken a well used theory which works out an individual’s aerobic zone based on a % of their anaerobic threshold heart rate. We can see that for every athlete our test suggests their aerobic training zone starts between 20 and 32 BPM higher than  and stretches 7-10 beats beyond that of the theory. In short by following the theory these athletes could have been riding at intensities much to low to really get ‘bang for their buck’ from their long endurance rides or runs. Granted there is merit to going out and riding at a lower intensity, it’s better than lying on the couch. However, to force the body to adapt and grow their endurance capabilities effectively they may need to be working much harder than they thought.    

For reference I have provided screen shots of the individuals ventilation graphs below. The green line shows ventilation (Ve/VO2 – the relationship between ventilation and oxygen uptake), the blue line shows heart rate (BPM). The vertical blue line indicates the aerobic threshold and the vertical green line is the anaerobic threshold. You’ll notice different shapes to the curve of the ventilation line, perhaps I’ll go into detail in another write up, but in short, the shape of the line gives us an insight into the condition of an athlete and can help identify strengths and weaknesses to further support their training.  

For more information on testing visit www.enduraprep.co.uk/testing Or if you have any queries please contact Lawrence@enduraprep.co.uk

Athlete A

Athlete B

Athlete C 

Athlete D

Athlete E 

Athlete F 


Pick up a new habit before the year is done!

Pick up a new habit before the year is done!

So it’s almost the festive season and unless you are racing abroad soon you are probably not 100% ready to race a triathlon. This is fine, healthy and encouraged at this time of year. Without exhausting yourself there is still plenty you can be doing to keep you active and give you a solid platform to kick on next year. Why not use the rest of the year to experiment with a few new habits or routines and start working out what might stick and benefit you. Knowing the athletes I work with you likely already swim, bike & run as much as you can given your free time. I’d like to address the things nearly all of us are guilty of not finding enough time for; strength & conditioning, flexibility & mobility. Now is a great time to play around with a few workouts or routines. The variety will be great for your general fitness and once you feel the benefits you will be more likely to find time to continue them through next year.

Strength & Conditioning

If adding a gym session is new to your routine then it’s likely you won’t have masses of time to dedicate to it. Two 20-30 minute sessions per week can be enough to see improvements. Keep it simple, don’t try and isolate every muscle with tiny movements. Instead cover all the major movers with big compound moves. To save time try and do your whole workout in a small area of the gym with minimal equipment, this will be really key in January when the gym is packed with newcomers. Also try pairing exercises and performing them back to back in a ‘super set’ e.g. with a core exercise or upper body then lower body to save more time.

Here’s a suggestion of 12 exercises for a quick routine. Try 3 rounds of each pair of exercises with short rest and aim to build up to the reps/time I have suggested. Focus on control of each movement, try to maintain good balance and posture whilst keeping your breathing under control. If you are new to gym work ask a gym instructor to show you the moves and how to adapt any of them to make use of the equipment available.

Warm Up – Rowing Machine 3-5 minutes.        

Squats (Body Weight or Kettle Bell Goblet Style) x 15

Glute Bridge (45-60”)

Press Ups x 15

Legs Raises x 15

Alternating Lunges (Body Weight or holding weight) x 15 each leg

Plank (45-60”)

Shoulder Press (Dumbbells, Bar Bell or Kettle Bells) x 15

Calf Raises x 15 each leg

Pull Ups or Lat Pull Down x 15

Back Extensions x 15

Tricep Dips x 15

Russian Twists x 15 each side (Body weight or holding weight)

Remember if you haven’t done this recently you will feel sore afterwards. Start with light resistance and lower repetitions. Once you start to feel fine the next day begin increasing the resistance or reps.

Flexibility and Mobility

Now this is the area 99% of us really don’t pay enough attention to. Again, keep it simple! To get the benefits frequency is the key here. Just 5 minutes a day or 10-15 minutes 4 times / week could really help you keep injury at bay, improve your hydrodynamics for the swim, make you more aerodynamic on the bike and increase your running stride length and efficiency. Focus on these eight areas:









Hip Flexors


The difficulty of the stretch or movement really depends on your range of motion through each area. Start with holding stretches for 2-3 rounds of 20-30 seconds. You can back up this routine with a foam roller. Foam rolling will improve blood flow to an area and help recovery but it won’t improve flexibility as well as stretching can so try to include a mix of both.

Experiment with some new habits before the year is done. Perhaps head straight into the gym after your swim session or make your bike and run cool down include a proper stretching protocol instead of heading straight for the shower. You could even include stretches throughout the day e.g. by spending two minutes away from your desk stretching every hour or while waiting for the kettle to boil. The more seamlessly you can integrate them into your routine the more chance they have of becoming a habit. By turning your body into a more robust frame it will be better able to cope with the stresses of swim, bike and run. Improved recovery will lead to more consistency in your training which is the key to improving. Less injuries will also allow you to continue with sport and exercise further in later life so think of it as a bit of insurance for the future to.


Open Water Dread

 Open Water Dread!


It’s the time in the UK when triathletes are starting to consider their first open water dip. If you are racing soon then of course, you need to. I wouldn’t advise rocking up to your first race having not had a few dips outside no matter how experienced you might be. But what if this is your first season of triathlon, SwimRun or first open water event? Then this is a BIG deal and probably the cause of most of your anxieties about the training ahead. Here’s my tips on how to conquer your fear of open water swimming.

Manage your expectations, your first swim won’t go well if you expect to swim like you can in the pool. You will panic, you won’t swim in a straight line and you will forget all the technique you worked on for the last six months. So don’t go to your swim spot expecting to swim a PB just because everyone has told you how much faster you are in a wet suit! Change your goals, baby steps, below is a more manageable approach:

  • Aim to stay in the water for 5-10 minutes.


  • Plan to just move around to keep warm by whatever means feels the least scary e.g. breaststroke, on your back or head up freestyle.


  • Let the cold water shock subside until you can keep your breathing under control. Then get out, job done, you survived your first open water dip!


  • Next, repeat these short dips but add extra little challenges such as aiming to move between features for example from the shore to a buoy and back.


  • If you are not confident putting your head into the water then introduce it gradually. Swim head up freestyle and then every five strokes put your face in and blow bubbles, then every 3, then 2 etc.


  • When you can continuously swim head down just breathe when you need to. You may be really comfortable breathing every 3 or 4 strokes in the pool but initially you may need to breathe more often and sporadically in open water, this is fine, whatever feels the most natural and relaxed.

Once you are swimming comfortably with your head down you will need to use the most important open water skill, sighting (looking up to see where you are going). Make sure you practice this in the pool first! Just because you never swim into the lane rope in the pool does not mean you will swim straight in open water. I love to try this test when coaching in the pool, give it a try; line yourself up in the middle of the lane, push and glide down the centre, then close your eyes and start swimming, stop when you hit the lane rope. Most hit the lane rope between 10 and 15 metres into the length, meaning if you don’t look up at least once every 10 metres outside, you will swim further than you need to. If in doubt look up and don’t be afraid to look up multiple times within a few metres to really lock on to your target. If you go off course in a race you will likely panic, swim hard to get back on course and dig yourself into a hole as you expend unnecessary energy and zig-zag your way to the exit. The fastest way from A to B is a straight line, even if you have to stop and get your bearings it will still be easier than swimming off course.

If you have the time try to add open water swimming as an extra swim session. That way you don’t have the pressure of covering the same distance you might in the sacrificed pool session, particularly while you are still building your confidence. Look to add some structure to that open water session such as distances at different effort levels, trying different breathing patterns or trying to swim near others. All useful skills in a race and it will take your mind off any open water anxieties.

Remember, you are not alone! Most triathletes have been through all of of the same fears. The more times you get in open water the easier it will get, be brave, persevere and STAY SAFE!      


New Year Trisolutions  

January is here! Let me guess, you’ve over indulged, have lost track of what day it is, feel unfit and are looking forward to getting back into a routine? So here is what you are probably thinking ‘I want to eat less food, do more training and be awesome!’ With going back to work this is all going to be a bit of a shock to the system but it’s the new year and you are motivated to get results, so you layer on the new technical gear Santa brought you and head out for a run or ride! While the first few training sessions might feel sluggish the release of endorphin’s and satisfaction from making a new start will be highly motivating. This motivation might drive you to push harder or go further than is necessary. Then it hits you, the early starts, rapid increase in training volume and change in diet weakens your immune system and you get ill or injured. So here is my suggestion for a triathlete’s new year’s resolution:

‘Make it to February without illness or injury.’

Perhaps this doesn’t seem very ambitious, but unless you are racing abroad it is unlikely that your ‘A’ race is any time soon. If you make it through January without setback then it is likely that you have settled into a sustainable routine balancing work, family and training without over stressing your body. You have now laid a healthy foundation to move forward.

Here is a few tips help the endurance enthusiast make it through January:

Divert your motivation – Instead of putting all your drive into achieving ultimate fitness. Why not focus on something that doesn’t get your attention during the racing season. DIY? Work commitments? Other hobbies? This might allow you to free up more time in the spring and summer for training and racing.

Benchmarks – Try not to compare your current fitness with where you were at the end of the summer, or even at the beginning of December. Instead think back to how you compare to last January. You have a season of events under your belt, many training sessions, many miles and many experiences (positive and negative). Your starting point this year is likely much stronger than that of last year.

Diet – Now we are in January you probably shouldn’t count cranberry sauce as one of your five a day. But that doesn’t mean you should try and survive on vegetable juice and chia seeds until you shift any festive weight. Before implementing any diet change ask yourself, ‘is this sustainable through February and beyond?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then I would suggest looking for a more balanced solution. Give your body the micro and macro nutrients it needs to handle your training and lifestyle.

Sleep & Recovery – Your body needs time to absorb your training and recover ready for the next session. Try to establish a routine in January that gives you enough sleep & rest. If you are not getting enough now it is unlikely you will cope well with increased training volume come spring.

Try to avoid being ‘awesome’ in January. Instead try to be consistent and patient then come race season, you will be AWESOME!             


ÖtillÖ Isles of Scilly 2017

ÖtillÖ Isles of Scilly 2017

‘You will be cold, but you will be warm.’

As soon as I found out a couple of years ago that ÖtillÖ (Swedish for island to island) was launching more swimrun events as qualifiers for their Sweden ‘World Championship’ race I knew soon, I would be entering one. The Scilly Isles was a no brainer, I had been there a few times as a kid and told wife Laura we should go, this was the perfect excuse. I made sure we signed up early, nearly seven months early! SwimRun is a team event (pairs) and if we were to complete it and still be married at the end, we needed to practice and seven months might just be long enough for me to calm Laura’s nerves (and chose the right moment to tell her we had entered the full event and not the sprint distance). In the meantime I was lucky enough to hear a talk from Michael Lemmer the founder of ÖtillÖ at the London Triathlon Show. He laid out the history of swimrun and the ethos of the ÖtillÖ series. This left me lots of great phrases that I knew Mrs Cronk would feel at ease with; ‘if you are not there to win you are there to have fun,’ ‘take the time to take in your surroundings’ and ‘help others.’

Seven months later and it’s June, we are on the ferry from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly. You can tell this event has considerably lowered the average age of visitors to the island. Plenty of leathery skinned, down jacket wearing athletic looking types on board. The types that make Laura nervous until I remind her ‘we look exactly the same as them.’ But I’ll be honest I didn’t have much of a come back when she said ‘those guys just told me they swam 7KM on Tuesday, neither of us have ever swam that far!’

After a quiet night in our holiday home it was Friday, the day before the race. We got kitted up and went for a short run around the headland and down to the beach for a short familiarisation swim. The water looks clear blue and really inviting, the weather is perfect at around 20 degrees so we thought nothing of legging it straight down the beach and into the water……..ooohhhh jeez, brass monkey and a few other expletives! It is cold, even in a wetsuit, no wonder the beaches were busy but with no one in the water!

By Friday evening the town of St Mary’s was buzzing with athletes. We headed down to the marquee by the harbour to do the formalities (register, briefing & expo). The briefing was great. Michael & Mats the race directors put everyone at ease and reiterate the values of ÖtillÖ. What I found impressive was that these values were followed through in all aspects of the experience. There was ethical & environmental reasons behind what was in the goody bag, what was sold at the expo & what would be on offer at the feed stations. The goal being to have people from all over the world come together in a unique location, share a challenging but memorable experience, inject some income into the local economy and then leave with no negative impact. They certainly made you aware that if events were to continue in such idyllic locations we all had to do our bit to protect them. Their message went way beyond the usual, ‘don’t drop gel wrappers’ that we are all very familiar with.

Besides the environmental message there was one phrase from Michael Lemmer which has stuck with me and resonates every time I put my swimrun kit on; ‘you will be cold, but you will be warm.’ An obvious oxymoron but he has absolutely nailed how you will feel during a swimrun event, trust me!

Saturday morning and we are lined up on the start line. The weather is scorching, mid 20’s by 10AM. Sweating already just from standing around in my wetsuit, that cold water already not seeming so bad. The start line was like no other start line I had ever stood at. I’ve never really seen the amount of kit vary so much. There was full length wetsuits, cut off wetsuits, proper swimrun suits, compression socks, buoyancy compression socks, pool buoys, paddles, webbed mits, foam strapped to shins or trainers, bungees, trail shoes, minimalist shoes, socks, no socks and LOTS of lubricant! It made it feel very pioneering and adventurous knowing that no one really had a clue what kit to use yet. Team Cronk had gone for old swim wetsuits with cut off legs at the knee and arms at the elbow. A bungee would keep us together for the swim. This meant Laura wouldn’t have to worry about sighting as she could just swim behind me following the cord and I wouldn’t get cold if I had to slow down or stop and check she was close and OK. We wore normal trail shoes with socks and had pool buoys strapped to our legs. After a few practice sessions in the sea with paddles and webbed mits it became clear 8KM with them would make our arms fall off, also one less thing to carry.

The race got under way and we immediately stuck to our tactics. Laura would set the pace for the runs, I would lead the swim. Now, how I pictured the day going in my mind is not how it played out! I was sure we would be running along chatting, and at times I may have to call upon some words of encouragement to maintain marital bliss. Instead we landed on the beach after the first swim, Laura turned and shouted ‘this is awesome,’ took off up the beach and left me for dust! This pace continued and I had to politely remind her we still had about four and a half hours to go. This didn’t deter Laura as she tiptoed through the coast path and left me behind coughing now and then to let her know our gap had extended.

It wasn’t long before we got to experience parts of the islands with no one else in sight. Around every headland was a picture postcard scene, time flew by. Running was hot, really hot! During the briefing we had been advised to strip our suits to the waist for the longer runs. This would obviously cost time and Laura was in the zone, no time for stripping suits down, I even got mocked for pausing to tip sand out of my shoe! Despite not stripping the suits down we were handling the heat, in good spirits and moving along steadily, until the final three legs. Left to go was an 8KM run, 2.5KM swim and a final 8KM run. During the penultimate run we dropped down from the coast path to run along a sandy track lined with high hedges and the temperature soared. We were both reduced to a shuffle. By the time we reached the next feed station I was overheating and dizzy. Due to dehydration setting in every time we entered the water it felt refreshing at first but soon much colder than the previous swim. I knew the final swim would take us up to fifty minutes, after already swimming further than I ever had in one day my suit felt like the only thing holding my arms on. Before entering the water for the last time there was some serious ‘pulling myself towards myself’ happening in my brain. Of course on the outside my teammate was not to know I was suffering.

That swim was the loneliest most mentally challenging part of a race I have ever experienced. Land was not getting any nearer. I would tell myself 1KM to go, then again what felt like ten minutes later still 1KM to go. Just as I thought land was getting closer and I was entering the bay a trawler passed between us and the land, as I focused on it the land shrunk behind it, it felt like I had gone backwards. Next to play on my mind was the tether, I began to feel every little tug on the bungee and blame my teammate for my arms feeling like noodles. Unclipping the carabiner crossed my mind many times but ditching your wife in the middle of ocean was something that would either leave me single or unable to have any input on holiday activities ever again. It was my idea seven months ago that got us here so I would have to suck it up. Fifty minutes later we land on St Mary’s for the last time. The beach is rocky, I stand up dizzy, stare at the rocks and try to pick a line up the beach. Before I can even see straight Laura runs past and shouts ‘that wasn’t that bad.’ I immediately regret not unclipping the carabiner!

We got stuck into the final run. We had to walk a few of the steep hills but the end was close, adrenaline took over and we got it done. The final 200 meter run next to the harbor is awesome, most of the people who have been supporting you around the course have caught ferries back to St Mary’s, Mats is armed with a microphone and greets you at the finish with a hug! To our surprise out of the 90ish teams entered we came 23rd and 5th mixed pair in a time of 6:10 we had managed 30 KM of running and nearly 8 KM of swimming. The atmosphere at the finish again rang true with the ÖtillÖ theme. Everyone chatted to competitors and spectators sharing the high’s and low’s of the day, comparing sunburn and chaffing whilst cheering others across the line.

We know we have only one ÖtillÖ experience to comment on but in our opinion they have nailed it! Everything about the event was slick and efficient yet laid back at the same time. The course was brilliantly marked with paper streamers attached to posts, hedges etc, at every swim entry the marshals directed you around sea weed, rocks and currents. Buoys, kayaks and safety boats in the sea guided you from island to island. The feed stations were stocked with healthy homemade treats, sweets and electrolytes (even warm tea after the longest swim). And to round off my report I’ll leave with a story that sums up ÖtillÖ:

On the course there are cut off times at checkpoints. This is to ensure safety staff are not spread thinly and in my opinion perfectly fair to have in place. Michael Lemmer insists that only he can inform a team that they must withdraw when not reaching a cut off. Upon hearing two teams were behind schedule during a swim early in the race he took a boat to their next beach landing. As the team walked up the beach looking dejected he ran down to them and asked them how they were. They were expecting to be pulled from event, instead he threw them a lifeline and said ‘get to the next checkpoint within five minutes of the next cutoff and you can continue.’ The team relished the opportunity to continue and finished the event beating all of the remaining cut offs.

If you are considering a swimrun event you will not be disappointed with ÖtillÖ. Footage from their other events looks equally as impressive. Through some sort of roll down Team Cronk were offered a spot at the ÖtillÖ World Championships, a monster race of 10KM swimming & 50KM of running. We can’t make it this year however, we are already eyeing up Hvar next year for another shot at qualification.

Still not convinced by swimrun? Check out this recap clip from the Scilly Isles.


Endurance Training and Racing – 6 Ways to Fuel Better.

Many athletes train with a goal of losing weight. Don’t sabotage your training and weight loss goals by improper fueling! Fuel to perform and the rest will take care of itself.

Recently I was chatting to a man I met while cycling. He told me he had raced Cat. 2 in his day and was cycling at a decent pace despite being in his fifties. It was about two o’clock and he was ten miles from finishing a seventy mile loop. Shortly after we started chatting he said ‘I’m doing a bonk ride, I haven’t eaten today, I need to lose this belly.’

My first thought was, “This is a terrible idea!”

Then my second thought was, “I’m going to have to wait to pull out my MASSIVE cherry Bakewell flapjack as that would be really rubbing it in!”

Instead of lecturing the poor hungry guy on how he could lose weight by eating regularly and improve his cycling at the same time, I bit my tongue.

Let’s use some rough figures to work out what is happening to this cyclist’s body.

If he ate his last meal at eight o’clock the previous evening, his next meal would be nearly eighteen hours later. He’s used around 400 kcal in his sleep and then more than 2000 kcal cycling. Yes, a good portion of these calories are going to come from fat stores but it’s the body’s reaction to this ‘shock’ that negates the benefits of fasting in this way.

First, was this guy likely to get home, sip a recovery shake and later eat some lean meat, quality carbohydrates and vegetables? Not likely. More likely he was going to have a massive fry up (I know this because he told me). This sort of fasting causes the body to go into what is known as ‘famine mode.’ If your body doesn’t know when the next meal is coming, your metabolism slows down and your body burns less calories. This is not ideal for weight loss. Second, fasting can affect your ability to make sensible food choices. When glycogen stores are low you will be more attracted to quick fix, sugary solutions: blood sugar spikes, insulin spikes, the sugar high passes and the next energy slump follows. The cycle continues when you are drawn to another quick fix food.

Using rough numbers I estimate that this cyclist’s BMR (essentially basic calories required during a day of lying in bed) to be 2,000Kcal. Adding in the 2,000kcal burned while cycling equates to a 4,000+Kcal deficit if he fasts for a full day. This is an extreme example. So, what is a better alternative?

  1. Make breakfast a priority – Albeit as inactive as it gets, you are in fact fasting while you sleep. Kick start the metabolism with some slow release carbs such as porridge on training days and aid recovery with high protein options such as scrambled eggs on rest days.
  2. Have a sensible deficit – If you are looking to lose weight then aim for no more than a 500kcal/day deficit. Any more is unsustainable whilst trying to maintain sporting performance.
  3. Time your intake – Try to limit high glycemic index foods (those with simple carbohydrates) to the hour before and during training when your body can readily use as a fuel source.
  4. Use the recovery window – Start the recovery process straight after a training session. Consuming a recovery meal or drink within 30 minutes of finishing a session not only aids muscle repair but it will hold off those sugary cravings until your next meal.
  5. Sleep – Get enough of it! Studies have shown that lack of sleep affects our cravings. Sleep is the ultimate form of recovery. Plan ahead and prepare food in advance, then when you do have those tired days you should have premade well balanced food at hand to keep you on track.
  6. If in doubt write it down – Keep a food diary for seven days. The commitment to recording your diet and awareness of what you’re actually eating can be enough to sway your choices. It’s also a great way to highlight any bad habits.

In a nutshell, make improving your performance the priority. If you balance consistent training with good quality nutrition and optimal recovery, you’ll enjoy your sport more and achieve your desired body composition.

Nutrition Article Enduraprep Ironman Endurance

Race Nutrition for Long Distance Triathlon

Race Nutrition for Long Distance Triathlon

The purpose of this article is not to provide a one size fits all foolproof nutrition plan. Nutrition is very personal and honing a strategy that works takes practice. One thing to mention from the start is food is not a replacement for under par fitness. If you have not put in the training at some point you will no longer be able to sustain the pace you might like to, no matter how much fuel you take on. This guide aims to give you basic knowledge of nutrition & allow you to build your own successful strategy to perform in a long distance triathlon and keep away from ‘the man with the hammer’ or the dreaded ‘bonk.’ I am not a nutritionist, the details in this information come from my background as a personal trainer and experience in competing at various sports. Athletes with specific allergies and sensitivities may need to seek the guidance of a professional nutritionist.

General Day to Day Nutrition

Training for three disciplines, especially for long distance, requires a lot of fuel. There is no need to cut out particular food types completely. Try to keep your diet well balanced. Look to include the following:
Protein from lean meat such as chicken and turkey, dairy, seeds, nuts, grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables and fish.
Carbohydrates from potatoes, pasta, bread & cereals. The GI (Glycemic Index) is a scale which relates to the speed at which the glycogen from carbohydrates enters the bloodstream. 100 being glucose, the simplest sugar which can actually enter the bloodstream through the stomach wall and not have to enter the intestines. High GI foods can lead to an insulin spike which is characterised by a sugar ‘high’ and then an energy ‘low.’ White and processed foods are more likely to have a high GI. Brown and/or whole wheat breads and pasta’s have a lower GI which causes a slower energy release and helps maintain constant energy levels. The GI of a food can be manipulated by the way it is prepared. For example a mashed potato has a higher GI than a baked potato. By mashing you are starting the breaking down process and making it easier for your body to use the available carbohydrate. GI also works as an average of a meal not its individual ingredients. By adding fat and protein to a simple carbohydrate you will change the speed at which that meal can be processed. It’s not a case of low GI is good and high GI is bad, it’s all about timings. High GI when you need energy soon and low GI when you need to drip feed those carbohydrates into your bloodstream over a longer period. E.g. Porridge with fruit and nuts for breakfast (medium/low GI) then an energy bar or sports drink when you are out on your ride. Or, a rice cake with jam (high GI) before a run session.

Fat has the most calories per gram of any other food type (9 calories/gram compared to 4 Kcal/gram for protein and carbohydrates). Our bodies like fat, it fills us up, has lots of energy and tastes good. Be wary of foods that advertise themselves as ‘low fat.’ When the fat is removed it is often replaced with sugar to keep it satisfying to taste. A high fat food might have more calories but is likely to make you feel fuller for longer and keep away the quick fix cravings. Look to intake fats from a range of sources such as dairy, seeds, nuts, oily fish, avocado and red meat (just 1-2 times per week for red meat).

Fibre does not provide much in the way of useful calories. It does however keep the digestive tract working efficiently. Fruit, vegetables, cereals and grains are all good sources of dietary fibre. Too much fibre can leave you feeling bloated. When combined with race day nerves it can also lead to multiple toilet trips on race day morning. Bare this in mind and try not to eat too much high fibre food in the days leading up to a race.

Vitamins, minerals & antioxidants come from a wide range of food types. The best way to get a good mix of these is to eat lots of colourful and varied fruit and vegetables. Aim to get at least five portions of fruit and veg a day and eat twice as much vegetables as fruit. Juggling work, family & endurance training can mean this is the area that gets missed. A strong multi-vitamin could help make sure you get the essentials and will give the immune system a boost, especially during hard training blocks.
To summarise, keep it simple. Before approaching any change in diet ask yourself ‘is it sustainable?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then it’s probably not right. A diet should be a lifestyle choice not a quick fix. If you are trying to lose weight for an event do it gradually. Up to 2lbs/week is considered healthy weight loss. Eat to perform and the volume of training should help the excess weight come off. If you try to train whilst leaving a large calorie deficit you will lose weight, but probably become lethargic, demotivated and possible ill or injured in the process. There is nothing wrong with a treat now and again. You might burn 5,000Kcal on a big day of training. Once you’ve given your body some good quality nutrition there is nothing wrong with a nice reward of cake and ice cream to top it off. Diet is as simple as inputs and outputs. If you consume the amount of calories you burn then you will maintain the same weight. Bradley Wiggin’s summed it up by simply saying ‘don’t fill up the tank if you are only going to the shops.’

Endurance Ride & Run Fuel

First things first, start the day with a good breakfast. Have it include low GI carbohydrates and protein. A couple of examples: porridge with seeds, nuts and fruit. Beans on toast. Scrambled egg with spinach on toast. Avocado and peanut butter bagels. Try to eat it 1-2 hours before setting off. Any longer and you may need another little snack before leaving. Don’t wait until you are out on the bike to start hydrating either. Get some water on board with your breakfast.

Out on the bike aim for 250-350 kcal/hour in total. This can come from solids and fluids. Consume little and often to keep drip feeding glycogen to the muscles (glycogen is what our body stores carbohydrate/sugar as in the muscles and liver). A bite of a bar every 20 minutes is more beneficial than one whole bar on the hour. My personal opinion is stay away from gels on the bike during a long distance triathlon. One gel is about 100 Kcal, you’d need two to three an hour. That’s up to 18 gels in a 6 hour bike split. Imagine 18 gels poured into a bowl. Now picture that inside your stomach. Nearly every story of gastro intestinal distress I have ever heard of in long distance triathlon is caused by gels. My advice would be eat solid food on the bike. In the weeks leading up to your event find out what nutrition will be available at the feed stations. Purchase some and practice with it. Do not rely 100% on the feed stations but at least know that your body can cope with what they will provide. Experiment with a few other snacks (manufactured or homemade) and create a plan based on what you can realistically carry and what you can pick up from feed stations on the day. 250-350 Kcal/hour is a guide, smaller athlete’s may need less and larger athlete’s may need more. Too much food in the stomach at once can lead to gastric shut down, particularly at higher intensities as blood is drawn away from the digestive system to the working muscles. As a general rule, at low level aerobic intensity (long distance triathlon pace), if you replace half of the calories you burn you will replenish glycogen stores sufficiently. The rest of your energy at this intensity should come from fat stores. Even the leanest of triathletes has enough fat to fuel them for multiple ultra endurance events.

Learn to read the signs of dehydration and low glycogen levels. Here are a few signs that you need fuel and or water:

  • Drifting off and looking at the scenery, laughing out loud or singing.
  • Making poor/sloppy gear changes.
  • Spinning at a cadence that is not natural to you. E.g. big gear, slower rpm.
  • No longer sweating despite being hot.
  • Zigzagging across the road.
  • Seeing stars or hallucinating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Rumbling stomach.
  • Heart rate higher than normal for same perceived effort could be a sign of dehydration.
  • Heart rate dropping during the same perceived effort could be a sign of an energy low.
  • Slurring your words.

Hydration varies a lot among individuals and the climate you are racing in. Aim for at least 500ml/hour of fluids. Up to 1 litre/hour on hot days. Even if you are not sweating you are still expelling water when you exhale. A sports drink can help drip feed carbohydrates and replace lost salts. It may be harder to digest solid food on really hot days so a sports drink can help replace calories on hot training days. In a long distance triathlon you should be stopping to urinate at a few points throughout the day. If you haven’t and/or at your last stop you passed amber or dark urine you need to increase your fluid intake. If this happens up your intake with sips little and often. Flooding your stomach with a bottle at once can make you uncomfortable, bloated, maybe sick and possibly pass through you quickly without getting absorbed by the body.

The need for electrolytes varies massively between individuals. If you leave salty stains on your kit or have salt dry on your skin when you sweat then it is likely you need to replace salts while training. Also if you suffer from cramps during training then it is worth trialing electrolyte drinks or salt tabs. Start with half of the recommended dosage on any package and build it up if you are still cramping.

Once you have successfully fueled and paced yourself through a long cycle you need to be able to run. Although your runs off the long bike ride in training will never be that long in comparison to the marathon run on the day, you still have to practice getting the fuel on board to get you through it. You need to practice fueling to run a marathon whilst on the bike. Try not to hold back on the nutrition during training just so you can have a big rewarding feed later that day. You need to get off the bike feeling fresh in training so start to practice consuming enough to make this happen. It is more difficult to get nutrition on board during the run, therefore it is not a good time to be playing ‘catch up.’ Try not to overdo the solid fuel on the last hour of the bike. If it doesn’t get a chance to digest you may be uncomfortable during the run.

During the run you may wish to switch to gels or a product that does not require much chewing and is easier to digest. For training with short runs off the bike one gel 10-20 minutes before getting off the bike and then maybe one more during a 30-40 minute run will be enough to keep glycogen stored topped up. For the marathon during a race stick to the 250-350 Kcal/hour rule. Try to wash gels down with a drink. It will help with digestion, keep you hydrated and help with the taste they leave in your mouth. If your run is going to take more than four hours you may wish to experiment with some more ‘real’ or savoury food for the run. Rice pudding or malt loaf are popular choices. It is difficult to carry lots of nutrition on the run so it is important that you research and practice with the food that will be provided. Twelve plus hours into the race everything will begin to look attractive at the feed stations, savoury or sweet make sure it’s something you have practiced successfully with in training. Race websites should contain details of the nutrition sponsor, their products available on the day and any other available nutrition.



Start the recovery process as soon as possible after every training session. Try to consume something within fifteen minutes of finishing your session to kick start the recovery process. A mixture of protein and simple carbohydrates works best E.g. sports recovery shake, milk shake, fruit yogurt, banana and nut butter. Getting some quality nutrition into you here can also keep cravings away and stop you making poor nutritional choices. We’ve all come in from a hard session and gone straight to the biscuit tin! Next, aim to consume a meal within two hours of having your recovery fuel. This meal should contain a mixture of protein, low GI carbohydrates and nutrients from vegetables. If this is your evening meal bare in mind it is a long time till breakfast. You may be up early to train and not eat a proper meal until after your morning training session. This is a long time to fast so you may need a high protein, low GI carbohydrate snack before bed. It’s common for athletes to not eat before an early training session, particularly swimming. You will have to eat before the swim on race morning so it is worth getting used to eating something before your early sessions.


Taper & Race Week

When you finish your biggest block of training before the taper you will no doubt be tired. The goal of a taper is to shed those layers of fatigue by reducing training volume at a rate that allows you to maintain your fitness and at the same time gain freshness. This is where you need to be on the ball with your nutrition. You will be training less, so your calorie intake should be less or you will gain weight. Yes, you do need to replenish and maintain glycogen stores so you can perform in your event. However, this can still be done by eating less than you consumed during your biggest weeks of training. An athlete with a large muscle mass can only store about 2000 Kcal of glycogen in their body (1400-1600 Kcal for the average person). For an average person that’s only about 200Kcal surplus of carbohydrates a day during the two weeks leading up to your event. Consciously eat good quality low GI carbs with every meal but just be aware that the quantities may need to decrease as the training volume does. This is not the time to be making drastic changes to the types of food you have been eating, just the quantities.
During the final day or two before your event your routine is going to disrupted with travel, registration, briefings etc. Try to keep your nutrition to a routine and do not try anything new. Take your own food with you when you can. Most events offer a pasta party in the days leading up to your event. The food here might be good quality (it might not), be wary of the variety. It is tempting to try a bit of everything but the mix might not digest well. Try to keep it simple and go easy on sauces. A popular choice among endurance athletes is pizza the night before an event. Wherever you are in the world you can usually locate pizza. Pizza menu choices are usually similar and so are the portion sizes. Pizza also has a really good combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat. I’m not saying you must eat pizza but find something that works for you which can be easily replicated wherever your race is. Try not to eat too late. You will likely be getting nervous & anxious about the event. This can affect your digestive system. Eat your biggest meal earlier in the evening and have a light snack later in the evening if you need it. Stay hydrated with water, sips little and often.
Race morning, get up early enough to eat breakfast. Eat your breakfast 2-3 hours before the scheduled start time. If you can, give yourself time to eat it comfortably without rushing. Relax and give your digestive system a chance to ‘fire up.’ Take a small snack with you e.g. a banana, toast, crumpet, rice cake or gel that could be consumed in the hour leading up to the event.
To Summarize, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Do not jeopardise all those hard months of training by ‘winging it’ with your nutrition.