Category Archives: mind

Key Traits of the Highly Disciplined Triathlete

This excerpt is from the book, Triathlon Science. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

What are the key characteristics of well-disciplined triathletes? Through extensive work with numerous triathletes over several years, a constellation of traits that defines the champion’s mentality has developed. High-level triathletes do not possess superhuman powers or extraordinary traits limited to a select few. Anyone who wants to excel in triathlon can develop the characteristics that make a champion.

  • Internal discipline and self-direction: Champion triathletes decide from the outset that they are training and competing for themselves, not for the awards, not for the prize money, not for their coaches. Direction and drive need to come from within. The objectives must be chosen because that’s precisely what they want to be doing. Triathletes should ask themselves, “What keeps me swimming, biking, and running? Who am I doing it for?”
  • Commitment to excellence: Does the triathlete set a high standard for herself? Elite triathletes know that to excel at their sport, they must decide to make it a priority in their life, to be the best at what they do. They set challenging yet realistic standards that are specific, and they are honest in evaluating their abilities and the amount of time and energy that they can put into their program.
  • Determination, consistency, organization: Winning triathletes know how to self-energize and work hard on a daily basis. Because they are passionate about what they do, they find it easier to maintain consistency in training and competition. Regardless of personal problems, fatigue, or difficult circumstances, they can generate the excitement and energy needed to do their best.
  • Concentration and focus: Disciplined triathletes have the ability to maintain focus for long periods. They can tune in what’s critical to their performance and tune out what’s not. They can easily let go of distractions and take control of their attention, even under pressure. They put their attention on the aspects of the competition that are within their control and recognize that they can make that choice.
  • Capacity to deal with obstacles: Top triathletes know how to deal with difficult situations. Adversity builds character and becomes an opportunity for learning, opening the way for personal growth and renewal. When elite triathletes know that the odds are against them, they embrace the opportunity to explore the outer limits of their potential. Rather than avoiding pressure they feel challenged by it. They are calm and relaxed under fire, realizing that nervousness is normal and that some nervousness can contribute to performance. Breathing deeply and doing a mental rehearsal of exactly how the race should go can also help triathletes remain calm and relaxed.
  • Enthusiasm and desire, love for the sport: Triathletes who win have a drive, a fire inside that fuels their passion to achieve a key goal, regardless of their level of talent or ability. They begin with a vision, and as they see that vision with more clarity, it becomes more likely to turn into reality. Wherever attention goes, energy flows.

Improve your endurance by knowing what affects your heart rate

This excerpt is from the author of Heart Rate Training. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

One of the most valuable long-term pieces of information you can gather is resting heart rate. When you wake up each morning, take a minute to get an accurate resting heart rate and keep a log. You’ll find this an invaluable tool, providing feedback on injury, illness, overtraining, stress, incomplete recovery, and so on. It is also a very simple gauge of improvements in fitness. We know athletes who have gathered resting heart rate data for years and in a day or two can identify a 1 or 2 bpm elevation that precedes an illness or a bonk session. Some newer heart rate monitors have the capacity for 24-hour monitoring.

Several factors affect heart rate at rest and during exercise. In general, the main factors affecting heart rate at rest are fitness and state of recovery. Gender also is suggested to play a role, albeit inconsistently (more about this later). In general, fitter people tend to have lower resting heart rates. Some great athletes of the past have recorded remarkably low resting heart rates. For example, Miguel Indurain, five-time winner of the Tour de France, reported a resting heart rate of only 28 bpm. The reason for this is that, with appropriate training, the heart muscle increases in both size and strength. The stronger heart moves more blood with each beat (this is called stroke volume) and therefore can do the same amount of work with fewer beats. As you get fitter, your resting heart rate should get lower.

The second main factor affecting resting heart rate is state of recovery. After exercise, particularly after a long run or bike ride, several things happen in the body. Fuel sources are depleted, temperature increases, and muscles are damaged. All of these factors must be addressed and corrected. The body has to work harder, and this increased work results in a higher heart rate. Even though you might feel okay at rest, your body is working harder to repair itself, and you’ll notice an elevated heart rate. Monitoring your resting heart rate and your exercise heart rate will allow you to make appropriate adjustments such as eating more or taking a day off when your rate is elevated.

These same factors of recovery and injury also affect heart rate during exercise. The factors that elevate resting heart rate also elevate exercise heart rate. If you’re not fully recovered from a previous workout, you might notice, for example, at your usual steady-state pace, an exercise heart rate that is 5 to 10 bpm higher than normal. This is usually accompanied by a rapidly increasing heart rate throughout the exercise session.

An extremely important factor affecting exercise heart rate is temperature. Warmer temperatures cause the heart to beat faster and place considerable strain on the body. Simply put, when it is hot, the body must move more blood to the skin to cool it while also maintaining blood flow to the muscles. The only way to do both of these things is to increase overall blood flow, which means that the heart must beat faster. Depending on how fit you are and how hot it is, this might mean a heart rate that is 20 to 40 bpm higher than normal. Fluid intake is very important under these conditions. Sweating changes blood volume, which eventually can cause cardiac problems. The simplest and most effective intervention to address high temperature and heart rate is regular fluid intake. This helps to preserve the blood volume and prevent the heart from beating faster and faster.

Another important factor affecting exercise heart rate is age. In general, MHR will decline by about 1 beat per year starting at around 20 years old. Interestingly, resting heart rate is not affected. This is why the basic prediction equation of 220 – age has an age correction factor. As a side note, this decrease in MHR often is used to explain decreases in .VO2max and endurance performance with increasing age, because the number of times the heart beats in a minute affects how much blood is moved and available to the muscles. We have coached and tested thousands of athletes, and the general trend is that athletes of the same age who produce higher heart rates often have higher fitness scores. However, your MHR is what it is, and you cannot change it. Don’t obsess over it.

A final factor is gender. Recent studies have suggested a variation in MHR between males and females. However, the data are inconclusive with the calculations resulting in lower MHRs for males versus females of the same age, while anecdotal reports suggest that the MHRs are actually higher in males. In general, females have smaller hearts and smaller muscles overall than males. Both of these factors would support the conclusion of a higher MHR in females, certainly at the same workload. We have to conclude that the jury is still out on the gender effect.

Triathlon Base Preparation Phase

For some reason, triathlon attracts many who want to dig into the science of how to train, researching questions like, “Why do I need long runs AND short fast runs?” “Why should I train my core so much if I am not in a sit-up competition?” “Swimming is really the only technique-oriented sport, right?”

It all starts with base training. Marc Evans writes about base training in Triathlete’s Edge. The following is an excerpt from his book reprinted here with permission from Human Kinetics.

traithlon base training“The ability to compete at peak athletic levels depends first and foremost on the athlete’s base preparation. A concentrated base is the foundation, core, and framework that best performances rely on. Base preparation includes exercising at low intensities for long durations—the building blocks used to construct the higher intensity efforts that come later. Dryland training (strength, core, flexibility) plays a chief role in base preparation training to comprehensively prepare the triathlete.

Too many triathletes want to get to the more intense work and neglect this important training. As I like to say, “The bigger the base, the better you’ll race.” Base training is the most important training and preparation part of the season.

As noted in chapter 6, the base preparation period of training picks up from active restoration and includes 16 weeks of foundational work in endurance, strength, flexibility, and technique. The general benefits of base preparation training include the following:

* Develops sport-specific aerobic endurance
* Develops strength, flexibility, neuromuscular coordination, and technique
* Strengthens connective tissue
* Increases the number of mitochondria and capillaries within the muscles
* Increases blood volume
* Enhances glycogen storage and capacity
* Decreases resting HR and increases stroke volume

These benefits are achieved by meeting the objectives of the phase, which include:

1. Assessing current fitness
2. Gradually increasing aerobic capacity and endurance (oxygen consumption)
3. Adding to core and maximal muscle strength
4. Progressively overloading and building up workout frequency, volume, and intensity
5. Promoting neurological development of proper technique patterns to improve economy
6. Training with drills to improve flexibility and coordination (technical exercises)
7. Managing nutrition and rest
8. Transitioning (aerobic/stamina) to bike-to-run workouts of longer duration and low intensity

Base preparation begins by assessing and establishing the athlete’s current baseline fitness and from there establishing short-term, midrange, and long-range goals. I use a battery of pretests to determine an athlete’s swimming, cycling, and running fitness. This is followed by another or several periodic retests to evaluate progress throughout this phase. These tests help define the direction of the training plan by establishing objective training benchmarks, which can be repeated over time. From these benchmarks, an athlete can better establish realistic goals that will give their training and racing a sense of purpose and direction.”