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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:

Posterior:

Calfs

Hamstrings

Glutes

Back

Anterior:

Shoulders

Chest

Hip Flexors

Quads     

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.

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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!