Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Going for Gold

Going longer!!
So it is now three years since my first ever triathlon – Stirling Sprint in June 2010, and I have come a really long way since then. Now I am contemplating going further still.
Since June 2010 I have competed in numerous pool based sprint events, two pool based standard events and my first open water sprint at Lochore Meadows last year. I have also worked really hard on my swimming both in the pool and open water, so it is time for something new. In 2013 I will be entering, and hopefully completing, a middle distance event, equivalent to a half Ironman distance. This consists of 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run. A significant increase on my current events, and it is also my stepping stone to my goal in 2014 – the UK Ironman in Bolton.

I will be keeping a blog on my training through the year up to my planned event of Aberfeldy middle distance in August, and maybe afterwards as well to track my recovery. New middle distance triathlon training plan Brian has supplied a training plan in January to get me started on my goal of the middle distance triathlon in Aberfeldy in August and it is certainly a challenge. I was a bit shocked to realise the run sets were 10 miles each, it is years since I have run that far, but then was almost as shocked when I ran it without stopping first time out. I have now done three of these, two steady runs and one fartlek session, and I know I have the strength for the distance and it is certainly feeling easier each time. A case of mind over matter I think. The swim sets are within my distance and capability but are making me swim a bit faster in some sets which I need. Am also finding that I am making progress here as well which helps me to keep feeling positive.

My big challenge will be once I get back into the open water later in the year. For some reason I always find it hard to keep swimming in open water, even when I don’t feel tired I seem to stop so this is something I have to work on. The hardest to do at present is the bike as it is hard to get outside when it is not dark or icy. The turbo trainer is getting some hard work as a consequence. I am really looking forward to the lighter evenings so I can get outside on the bike much more regularly.
Strength and conditioning training is supplied by land training sessions plus ton up sessions. The workouts are not as hard as the pre-fatigues!! My upper body strength is still nothing like as good as my lower body so there is work to do.

So good start to the training, and now I just need to work out how to fit it in around work, especially when I am travelling.


The Edinburgh Women's Novice Triathlon 2012 race report

It all started over a cup of coffee and cake after 'Team Tod' had finished taking part in the 2011 Men's Health Survival of the Fittest race. I heard myself say out loud, "I'd quite like to train for a triathlon". "Come along to the training then" they said. That was it, the idea was out there and I started to look at triathlon dates for 2012. When the gym posted a link for the Edinburgh Women's Novice Triathlon I had a look at the website.
It was being held on the 1st July at Dalkeith school campus and comprised a 400m swim, 10km bike ride and 5km run and as the title suggested it was for women who had never done a triathlon before. I decided that was the one for me. I had to submit a swim time when registering my details so I put down a time I thought I could manage; 18 mins.
The last time I had swam competitively was when I was 11, two lengths breaststroke. My first couple of lengths front crawl as a warm up were, painful and there were weeks when I thought I had never swam before. However by the time the pool was due to shut for the summer I was able to swim front stroke without having to stop after a length and a half. The coughing and spluttering had gone.

Winter bike sessions at the gym entailed following an hour long DVD cyling through the Canadian rockies. One Saturday I was introduced to a brick session, eg after an hour cycling you jump off your bike and run outside. I watched as the rest of them ran off. My brain and legs didn't seem to work in sync yet it seemed. Outdoor cycling took over once the weather improved and if the team went out together we usually went for a 10 -12 mile round trip, do-able in about an hour.

I started to cycle to and from the weekly pool sessions, up and down to the gym and back and forth to work. Kept thinking if only it was a swim and a bike ride I'd be fine. The third element of a 5km was filling me with dread. Not least because, one Saturday morning I had gone to the Edinburgh Park Run at Cramond. They run a free timed 5k run every Saturday and I was as they say, blowing out my backside by the time I'd finished. Not good. Unfortunately, not long after that I developed an injury to my calf which kind of put paid to doing much to improve my running. I think it was about then I thought I'm not going to go through with this, what's the point if I can't run. However I was still able to swim and cycle and had kept up a fair bit of strength and conditioning training at the gym. So, after a fair bit of encouragement to go for it. I did.

Registration at Dalkeith was between 1000-1130 and the event was due to start at 1200. I arrived about 1045, collected my race nos, and safety pins. Next I got my nos marked on my leg and arm. Then I went back to my car to unload my bike and take the kit I would be wearing on the bike and run, to the transition area. We had had a coached transition session at the gym a couple of weeks before so the transition area wasn't too bewildering. The space was limited though and I was quite aware of not taking up too much space. The pre-race briefing was at 1130 at the registration area and I met a couple of women there who looked about the same age as me. We all concluded we were all a bit crazy to be taking part but what the heck. Half an hour later and I'm in the water with my orange swim cap on in a swim lane with 3 other women waiting to start my 16 lengths. Thirteen minutes later and I'm hauling myself out and trying to run barefoot, lightly over the playground to the back of the school to my bike. I hadn't bothered with a triathlon suit so it was on with a t-shirt, shorts, socks, trainers and a bike helmet.

After unhooking my bike I ran to the start line, jumped on and cycled out the school. The 10k cycle started with a hill and I do mean A HILL. Some of the women were walking up it, pushing their bikes. I did think about it, but decided all those squats at land training would not go to waste and just went for it. (Wonder if the photographer at the top caught my expletive).

Thought it would be easy after that but, unfortunately the wind was in front most of the way and the worst part for me was still to come. When I got back to the school and hooked up my bike and started on the run I just kept saying if I can keep going till I'm out of sight I'll be fine. I don't know how many times I stopped running and walked but I wasn't the only one. Everyone who did, got lots of encouragement to keep going from the other runners. My calf was seriously seizing up and when it got to the 3k mark there was no point in going back so I ended up walking/jogging to the finish line. It felt good to have finished but I was disappointed I hadn't been able to run all the way.

Anyway with a medal round my neck, banana and water bottle in hand, I went to get showerd and changed and headed back to the canteen. Women were coming in in dribs and drabs and I got chatting to a lady who only trained for this event every year (not a novice event then). Another lady had come through from Helensburgh because she loved running and because her husband was a triathlete. There were women of all ages, sizes and levels of fitness coming back in. I'm glad I'd been in early cos the buffet was disappearing fast! I have to say I loved training for the event.

My swimming improved and I learned how to breath properly. I've re-discovered the joy of cycling and I can see much room for improvement in my running ability. I can't compare this event with any other one but because I went along on my own and it was a women's only event it wasn't too daunting. And, it was really well organised. Oh, and the buffet was superb! Lorraine

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Critical swim speed

When purchasing, downloading or borrowing a swimming programme, or when you attend a coached lane at the local pool, have you ever wondered what all the jargon means? Ever wondered how the coaches and swimmers alike all know how to pace themselves, and at what intensity they ought to train? Apart from endless miles in the pool and one to three hours per week land training, how do they achieve split times, race pace, swim rest ratios and how do they make it look so easy? Brian Fernie explains:

Swimming in this respect is not much different from many sports. Whether you are recreational, a club triathlete or an elite swimmer, it all boils down to the same things when you are swimming. Stroke technique Stroke count Aerobic conditioning Anaerobic endurance Land training Mileage in the pool Type of stroke Many of us have tried, and died, trying to swim 400m straight away. Many of us have wondered what 'onset blood lactic tolerance' and 'swim rest' mean. Fear not, in this article we will look at the critical swim speed test, who can do it, and what you need to do it (apart from big lungs).

The test was devised by E Ginn in 1993 and is used by coaches and swimmers alike to test aerobic fitness that can be maintained. From the test results, Ginne concluded that training times could be calculated and set for swimmers using his unique/specific calculations. This means that swimmers can train just below 'race pace' or at 'lactate threshold', to give it it's other name.

Who can do it? Anyone who wishes to improve their aerobic swimming capacity should be capable of carrying out this test - it's also something that can be done as part of a group session where everyone can help each other with the timing and counting. What do I need? Apart from the obvious, a pool to swim in - size doesn't matter although 25m or 50m is best - you need some basic equipment: a stop watch to time the swim, someone to act as a lap counter and a calculator.

Test criteria The test needs to be carried out in the same way each time so there are some basic criteria: Must be from a push start; no diving is permitted The swimmer must be allowed to fully recover from each swim Record the time for each swim in seconds and calculate by the method shown below The test itself comprises two swims over 400m each and two swims over 50m each.

The best method to do this is to swim a 400m, rest and then swim a 50m. Now rest and repeat the two swims. You will now have two sets of data for the following calculation. D1 is 50m, D2 is 400m, T1 is the time for 50m recorded in seconds and T2 is the time for 400m recorded in seconds. The formula for the calculation is this: CSS = (D2 - D1) ÷ (T2 - T1) To give an example; Flipper swims 50m in 35 seconds and 400m in 297 seconds so: CSS = (400-50) / (297-31) CSS = 350/262 CSS = 1.32 metres/second What now? Remember the results of the test can only be compared to previous CSS tests. With the correct conditioning, training and stroke technique between the tests, you will be able to see how your training is leading to an improvement in your aerobic capacity or, on the other hand, it could highlight failings in your training regime.

After collating and analysing the test results, how can we incorporate the results into our training schedule? Well that’s the easy part. We can use the results to determine our training times.
For example, Bob's training plan requires him to swim 6 x 400m, so the time it should take him can be calculated as follows: 400m training time = distance/CSS Bob has a CSS of 1.35 meters per second so the calculation is as follows: 400/1.35 = 296.3 seconds = 4 minutes 56.3 seconds for each 400m swim

Does it work? While the reliability of the test results depend on the test criteria and commitment of the athlete, the CSS test itself has proven to be a valid and reliable measure of a swimmer's aerobic capacity. Ut has been rigorously tested by its inventor, who determined that the CSS for a swimmer was about 80 to 85% of maximum 100m swim speed and 90 to 95% of their 400m swim speed. This test will enable you to improve your aerobic fitness and incorporate the results into your training programme.

Remember, tests should always be conducted under conditions as close as possible to the previous test and over-testing can give poor results. Every six weeks is enough to test whether your programme and training is progressing or not. References Ginn, E. (1993), The application of the critical power test to swimming and swim training programmes, National Sports Research Centre Ginn, E. (1993), Critical speed and training intensities for swimming, Australian Sports Commission

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

kettlebell training for triathletes part 1

I am often asked by triathlete’s and duathlete’s alike, as to what is the best kind of weight training to compliment the disciplines of their endurance sport. Coaches and trainers will give you different answers, and scientific proof that one way is better than the other. Some do not advocate strength training at all, so there is no easy answer to this as many ways have been tried and tested and all coaches have a preferred method of strength and conditioning. Owing to the nature of triathlon predominantly slow muscle twitch fibres are used, with some training incorporating fast muscle twitch fibres.

To be honest both should be used and are utilized in training and competing. Bodyweight is very advantages to endurance athletes as it builds, strength, flexibility, mobility, endurance and allows the athlete to maintain an athletic look rather than a bulked up look. Most athletes are told to follow more traditional methods of weight training where the body works as individual units to strengthen the muscles, much the same as a body builder or power lifter.

A lot of time is spent on clean and jerks, snatches, hang cleans, all great if you have time to perfect the technique, access to the proper equipment and really want to compete in weight or power lifting events. Many of the programmes given to athletes are specific to one discipline with a little crossover in some areas if the coach understands the physiology and body requirements of the sport. Having coached athletes both for general preparedness and sport specificity, one thing I have noticed is a lack of posterior strength in many triathletes, mainly owing to poor training programmes or lack of knowledge concerning the anatomy of the body and the requirements of the sport.

This is where I believe and have proved it to my athletes that kettlebell training will aid and compliment there existing training. Firstly lets look at the anatomical position in order to correct the PKC (posterior kinetic chain) Anatomical Position What is the anatomical position? The anatomical position is a position used as a reference when describing parts of the body in relation to each other. Used in conjunction with terms of relationship, terms of comparison and terms of movement, the anatomical position allows a standard way of documenting where one part of the body is in relation to another, regardless of whether the body is standing, lying down, or in any other position.

A person in the anatomical position is standing erect with the head, eyes and toes pointing forward, feet together with arms by the side. The palms of the hands are also pointing forward. (see below) When looking at an individual it is important to understand the basics of Optimal Posture/Alignment.

Basically a line or plumb line can be held against the side view of the individual and the poinths that should line up starting from the bottom are Ankle–neutral, planter or dorsiflex position. LOG (Line of Gravity) slightly forward of the lateral malleolus of the ankle Knee-full extension LOG falls anterior to the knee but just posterior of the patella Hip and Pelvis- both in neutral the posterior superior Iliac spines should be below 10 degrees for male and 15 for female Spine should curve naturally and be neutral The LOG falls slightly posterior of the cervical spine Shoulders- Scapula retracted and depressed Head- Ear LOG should fall through the centre of the ear. The optimal posture/alignment may not be correct in most individuals; this is owing to genetics, activity, injury, inactivity. By ensuring we check and compare our alignments we can ensure what corrective work may be required to correct our alignment.

Now for the posterior kinetic chain which in basic form propels you forward! And is used in all three disciplines. This is a collection of muscles that are responsible for lower back stability and hip extension. These muscle groups are possibly the weakest in most humans in today’s society, resulting in poorer physiques owing to lower and upper back problems which develop owing to the fact most of the workforce today are in seated positions most of the day. Muscles that make up the posterior chain include Erector spinae Gluteus maximus Hamstrings Bicep femoris Semitendonosis Semimembranosus

To understand the PKC fully we need to also look Elastic Potential Energy (EPE) Definition of EPE Elastic Potential Energy called “EPE” is a measure of the restoring force when an object changes its shape. EPE is similar to GPE (Gravitational Potential Energy) except that the restoring force depends on the substance of the material and not due to gravity. The force which returns the spring to its original shape is called the restoring force. The size of the restoring force depends on the stiffness of the spring and the amount it has been stretched. The more stiff the spring and the further it has been stretched, the more EPE it has gained.

Anything elastic will gain EPE when its shape is forced to change. Other examples are.

1. A catapult pulled back to launch a stone.
2. A crossbow primed to fire an arrow.

When the shape is restored, EPE is transferred to Kinetic Energy (+ Heat) In western society for many centuries we have been great abdicators of the squat, ensuring we never bypass our knee line with our buttocks, this is in part owing to our way of life, most item’s we have which we can sit on is at right angles to the ground, e.g chairs, toilets, car seats, benches. We have lost the ability to use our hamstrings properly and engage them in sport or daily lives, hence the reason most sport or fitness related injuries are the hamstrings.

What do we mean by elastic potential, quick examples would be Olympic power lifters and the depth they go to for power squats and lifts, Asian communities where if you observe them at a local roadside café they are all hunkered down with there bottoms close to the ground feet flat leaning slightly forward. As they get up as do power lifters they explode ensuring the hips, glutes, back, hamstrings and quads all fire nearly in unison so as to drive them up to a standing position. Using the above example and a liking the hamstring to a spring; if we stretch a spring and then let go, it will return to its original shape (provided it has not been stretched beyond its elastic limit).

This is why we need to improve elasticity in the hamstrings to prevent injury and to release EPE within the muscle group. Types of Contraction and Elastic Potential Isometric Isometric exercise or “isometrics” are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction (compared to concentric or eccentric contractions, called dynamic/isotonic movements). Isometrics are done in static positions, rather than being dynamic through a range of motion. The joint and muscle are either worked against an immovable force (overcoming isometric) or are held in a static position while opposed by resistance (yielding isometric). Concentric Muscle fiber generates tension through the action of actin and myosin cross-bridge cycling. While under tension, the muscle may lengthen, shorten or remain the same.

Though the term ‘contraction’ implies shortening, when referring to the muscular system it means muscle fibers generating tension with the help of motor neurons (the terms twitch tension, twitch force and fiber contraction are also used). Eccentric Muscle fiber generates tension through the action of actin and myosin cross-bridge cycling. While under tension, the muscle may lengthen, shorten or remain the same. …

The tensioning of a muscle as it is being lengthened Contraction of a muscle, involving lengthening of the muscle as in lowering a weight to the ground; a muscle contraction, in which the contracted muscle lengthens. Integration of the Kettlebell Kettlebell training is not new it is not magic, although some may have you believe it. The Russians who are at the front of kettlebell sport have used tried and tested techniques for years. Since the collapse of the cold war, this amazing little weight has once again exploded onto the fitness scene.

The major benefit that you will experience once you start training with kettlebells is the fact your whole body works in unison. You will feel the burn in your hamstrings, glutes, quads, back, shoulders and arms and that’s just from the basic techniques such as the KB swing. Even bodybuilders have come to appreciate and understand the need to train with kettlebells and add them into there training regimes, no longer do they work muscle groups in isolation of each other.

What does this mean for you the individual and what does KB training do for you

• Teaches your body how to work as a single unit (it integrates the whole body together)
• Allows for high repetition work which is phenomenal for fat loss conditioning
• Emphasizes the use of the glutes, hamstrings, spinal muscles and abdominal muscles for maximum power and speed enhancement.
• Simultaneously improves both strength and cardiovascular endurance (known as incidental cardio)
• Improves flexibility (this happens as a by product of training)
• Boosts your metabolism thus burning more fat
• Develops incredible hand, grip and finger strength • Improves full body stability and balance due the dynamic nature of the exercises
• Burns more energy because of the full body integration If used correctly and it is worth attending a reputable workshop with a qualified instructor, which will ensure that you understand the basic mechanics and swings of Kettlebells and start to incorporate them into your training programme you will see and feel a difference

So get swinging!

From Drowning to Swimming!!

Eighteen months ago I decided to undertake my first triathlon to raise money for 500 miles, a charity which raises money for the supply of prosthetics and orthotics for people in Kenya and Mali who have missing or deformed limbs. I wanted a challenge to encourage lots of sponsorship and thought this would be one, especially since at the time I couldn’t make it through 750m of swimming with any stroke!! My first triathlon was Stirling Try-a-Tri Sprint distance in June 2009.

I worked hard for several months making sure I could make 750m breaststroke to at least complete the swim. However, I knew this was not really the best way to complete the swim for my overall tri performance. At the same time I have been trying to learn to swim front crawl. My first attempts were interesting, to say the least. Having had the usual school tuition for training – get in the water and get to the other side of the pool without swallowing all of it – I didn’t really have much idea of what I was supposed to be doing. As a consequence I tended to avoid swimming crawl as it involved an awful lot of splashing, not much forward movement and an ever present danger of a lifeguard jumping in to rescue me!!

In fact I was so bad that when a friend tried to teach me to swim her first suggestion was that I use a float and kick for a pool length. The result was that I went backwards, then couldn’t swim for laughing. So, I obviously needed help. This came first from Andrea, a colleague and friend who as an open water swimmer who has swum the English Channel knows lots about swimming technique.

She very patiently watched my efforts, gave me great advice and spent time helping me get a reasonable technique. Then I joined the TOD team, and one of the huge benefits has been regular training sessions in the pool.

For the first session I almost turned up with a rubber ring and arm bands, but wasn’t sure that wouldn’t get me into more trouble than I was already in. When Brian asked me to swim a length of crawl it was the last thing I wanted to do as I knew my technique was still very iffy, but I knew it had to be done. He was very kind (well, he didn’t laugh) and from that first session has given me great advice and tips. In addition, he gave me a couple of tough swim sessions to do regularly.

When I first saw them and realised the sessions were 80 and 100 lengths I nearly died. The warm up session of 30 lengths was about my total swim distance at the time, but swimming the longer distance regularly has really helped my swim fitness.

My main goal has been to swim the full sprint race distance front crawl without stopping. It has taken me some time to get my breathing together and relax enough in the pool to string a number of lengths together, but a couple of weeks back I managed two sets of 10 lengths in my local 20m pool.
Then it all seemed to come together, I did twenty lengths in one go last week, then yesterday for the first time I completed forty lengths without stopping.

That last length was amazing, it was a bit tricky to swim with a broad grin on my face and the guy in the Jacuzzi did wonder why the lone swimmer was whooping at the end of the length, but the feeling of finally getting the rhythm and having the strength to get the distance is amazing. At 800m this is slightly over the sprint race distance, and at over 23mins it is 4mins slower than my breaststroke time, but I know it will get quicker.

I can now call myself a swimmer at last!!