Category Archives: swim triathlon

Triathlon Brick Training

In this terrific excerpt reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, Championship Triathlon Training, you’ll learn some brick training techniques and strategies.

Combination Training
The bike–run transition is addressed first because it is much more difficult than the swim–bike transition and thus the most practiced. Often referred to by many longtime triathletes simply as bricks, combination bike–run training is more than simply following a bike ride with a run. In the modern application of the method, a variety of combinations of two or even all three sports are used in training, primarily to help the body adapt quickly to the stress resulting from rapid changes in movement patterns. When you stop doing one activity and begin doing another very soon afterward, your body must make adjustments in blood flow, nervous system regulation, and muscular tension. For example, while the majority of blood flow has been directed toward your upper body during the swim, it must be redirected to your legs for the bike ride. During the ride, you hold your back muscles in an elongated, flat position with tension. For the run, those muscles must rapidly readjust and shorten to hold you in a more upright posture.

Your leg muscles may have grown accustomed to a slower turnover pace (cadence) during an extended period of cycling at 80 to 90 rpm. In the run they will need to adjust quickly upward to a stride rate of 90 or more per minute. Your ability to make each of these basic physiological adjustments improves with training that is specific to the demands of transitioning between sports rapidly. It stands to reason that just as performance in each sport improves with better training, as you practice and train for the changeovers and related adjustments between the sports, they will go more smoothly too. By learning to make the physiological adjustments in training, you are also training to be more successful psychologically by building realistic self-talk and a positive mind-set regarding the same transitions in racing situations.

The modern approach to combination training for successful transitions uses short training bouts in each sport while focusing on moving through the transitions to the next sport at race speed. This allows for more transition-specific practice, and it creates better overall quality in the swimming, cycling, and running segments of the session. It also makes the training more varied and more interesting. For this approach you set up physical locations specifically for practicing transitioning and plan routes that make such transition practice convenient. Practice for efficiently switching from one sport to the next simply becomes part of the training process in a way that adds a unique element to multisport training and increases enjoyment.

As noted, in triathlon and duathlon for most athletes, the bike-to-run transition is the most demanding one. This is probably due to the relatively high levels of fatigue and dehydration that occur as the race progresses and the change from a relatively static and crouched position on the bike to an upright and dynamic one on the run. Thus the most commonly emphasized combination training element is the bike-to-run transition. However, at the elite amateur and professional levels, the swim-to-bike transition, while not as difficult, is still extremely important in keeping overall times down. At these levels of competition, the bike speed of the racers is very high, at times more than an average of 25 mph. Thus the need to stay close to the other competitors, even in nondrafting events, is critical for successful performance. Of course, in draft-legal elite racing, how you do in the swim–bike transition can completely make or break your race. Losing just a few seconds in the transition process can easily lead to riding on your own rather than in a pack. Losing the advantages of drafting usually means that you have to work much harder on the bike. That will often lead to an increased split time in cycling. Then you will have the same problem on the run because you will be more tired when you get to it than you would have been if you had been in a draft pack on the bike.

Transition-focused training sessions require more preparation to organize and conduct than typical one-sport workouts. Thus their use is emphasized for race-specific intensities and endurance along with course-specific preparation in order to get the most out of the training. You should use a generic training setting that is similar to most triathlon courses (rolling hills) or a race-specific practice course to prepare for specific events. Ideally this will include a closed loop for the bike and a loop or out-and-back course for the run. For the swimto-bike transition training, an available lake or outdoor pool with a nearby cycling loop is ideal. To do either one, you will need a safe place to leave your bicycle and other equipment in a transition zone.

A typical combination training session includes two to four repeats of cycling and running or swimming and cycling at a speed endurance effort. This level of effort is a little lower than full racing effort yet faster than typical aerobic training. It is also definable as a tempo-effort, comfortable-speed intensity, or a specific level of work that represents your current projected speed for approximately twice your race distance. In other words, if you project a 7-minute-per-mile pace for 10K and a 7:30-per-mile pace for the half marathon, you would run this kind of effort at a 7:30-per-mile pace. Essentially these are miniduathlons or triathlons done at just below race speed.

Before completing the target combination sets, you should do a full warmup for both sports and for all three when you are doing triple combinations. This should include all the elements of the warm-ups described in chapter 5, including a progressive warm-up in each sport followed by skill sets and a set of progressive alactate efforts.

You begin each bike-to-run work interval by running to the bike at race speed as if you had come out of the swim. After mounting the bike at full speed, you ride the bike segment at tempo effort as described previously. Then you move through the transition to the run at speed and complete the run at tempo effort. The same scenario would occur in a swim-to-bike session. You begin the swim at speed, ideally using a start method similar to what you will use racing, then exit the water and proceed through a transition at speed, followed by the mount and your bike segment at tempo effort. You should use any equipment (such as a wet suit) that you anticipate using in the racing environment.

By breaking this training session into multiple efforts in an interval format, you will improve your performance quality while overlearning the transition skills and physiological adjustment processes. The primary goal of this training is to achieve a total training effort somewhat in excess of race distance at a power output that is similar, although less, than race effort when preparing for Olympic or sprint-distance races. If you are going for a longer race, you may not be able to do the full race distance in training on a regular basis. Note that this training can also be done at aerobic intensities. A lower-intensity approach to combination training is useful during base training periods (when most training is in an aerobic range of intensity) as described in chapter 5. A cool-down for the session should include both cycling and running, or swimming and cycling, or all three depending on the number of individual sports involved. The typical training session follows:
45-minute cycling at progressive aerobic effort with 10 3 30-second single-leg
pedaling drill (see chapter 3) and 6 3 15-second alactates
15-minute run at progressive aerobic effort with 6 3 60-step butt kicks followed
by 6 3 15-second alactates
Main Set
3 3 9-mile (14 km) ride and 2.5-mile (4 km) run with transition at speed,
several minutes of recovery between each set
15-minute run cool-down
30-minute cycle cool-down

You can modify the length, number of repetitions, and targeted intensity of training to create various physiological effects yet retain the basic emphasis on combining sports. As noted, this type of training requires you to set up a transition area where you can leave the bike and other equipment while you run. Therefore, it becomes a great opportunity for a coached workout. A coach or helper can take splits, evaluate and provide feedback on transition skills, and take care of nutritional needs as well as provide security for equipment. For International Triathlon Union (ITU) racing (that is, draft-legal racing), training with a group adds specificity to the transition-practice environment. This focus could become the basis for a very enjoyable age-group training session as well. To reduce concerns about bike theft, in solo training you could use a trainer for the cycling and then do the run workout from home, although this option reduces transition specificity considerably. Some athletes bring a trainer to a track and do their bike–run combinations there so that their equipment stays
within easy view for security.

Psychological Skills – triathlete mind training

In this terrific excerpt reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, Championship Triathlon Training, you’ll learn a few techniques to keeping your mind sharp and on task, a DEFINITE skill used by top athletes.

Psychological Skills
Many areas of life can produce psychoemotional difficulty or anxiety. Whether
it be flying in an airplane or speaking in front of a crowd, people admire those
who can perform without apparent difficulty. It’s often assumed that demonstrating
such skill and enjoyment in a task must be a God-given talent and not
something you can achieve for yourself. Yet a large body of scientific evidence
suggests that this is not the case. Those who do things with less anxiety and
more pleasure than others often have certain psychological skills specific to the
situation. These are skills you can set out to systematically develop and apply
in a given situation—often drawing on your own experiences in other areas of
life in which you have been successful. Typically these skills include the ability
to see potential outcomes with realistic optimism, to create sustained positive
behavioral change, to control and use positive self-talk in times of difficulty
or unexpected change, to enter a meditative state that can allow movement to
occur most effectively, to be able to produce physical relaxation and the full
expression of abilities, to develop a high level of self-efficacy regarding tasks
associated with sport, to deal with physical discomfort when desired, and to
be adaptive and able to change your perception of initially difficult situations
as you experience them.

High-Tech Cycling book cover

You can develop psychological skills by employing a systematic process
very similar to that used in developing physical skills. You begin by isolating
the skill and practicing it in an environment free of distractions and in which
you have maximum control, just as you might learn to hit a forehand shot
in tennis by banging a ball against a wall by yourself. If feedback on your
performance can be provided, the learning process progresses much more
quickly. The frequency of errors can be reduced and that of successful repetitions
increased. Hence you can focus on positive outcomes. In the example of
the tennis forehand, you are able to increase the number of hits and keep the
ball in play longer against the wall by making adjustments to your stroke and
seeing the immediate impact. As you strive to do better, the process becomes
its own game.

The same development process can be brought into play in the psychological
realm once you have defined the application of a skill and created measurable
outcomes that provide feedback. You can then extend the use of those skills
into progressively more challenging situations, ultimately extending them
to real-world applications. As you intertwine this psychological skill practice
into triathlon training, you will achieve the dual benefit of enhanced physical
and psychological responsiveness. For example, consider achieving physical
and psychological relaxation using a breathing technique, taking a slow nasal
breath over five seconds of inhalation and five seconds of exhalation. Feedback
on outcomes could be provided by measuring your heart rate in response and
creating an awareness of your self-talk. You could start the practice by performing the breathing in a comfortable environment with few distractions, with
the intent of lowering your stress level, using your heart rate as the measure.
You could then use the technique in more distracting environments, such as
during work, and then apply the technique to your movement during training
and ultimately to racing.

Examples of specific psychological techniques that are useful to triathletes
include realistic optimism as an approach to goal setting, performance visualization
and imagery to learn and refine movement skills, nasal and “belly”
breathing patterns combined with imagery to induce more effective respiration
and relaxation, desensitization to overcome anxiety-related aspects of training
and performance, belief systems and positive self-talk, and meditation to deal
with performance discomfort.

Realistic and Optimistic Goals
It’s easy to be optimistic when things are going well and within your control. It
becomes more difficult when things are not going well. However, multisport racing
and training do not always go well because, as in all life, some variables cannot be
anticipated. The realistic optimist in a given situation not only focuses on a positive
outcome but also immediately sets out to determine what factors he or she can control to get that outcome to occur. (Note that realism is essential to this total approach to training and racing. Thus, it is referred to repeatedly in this book.) This mind-set allows you to constructively respond to even very difficult situations. It also helps in determining the specific nature of goals you might set for training and competition. The mind-set can be created by planning for the accomplishment of challenging tasks associated with triathlon. Examples might include the completion of specific training efforts or challenging races. Developing a task orientation to success, in which you focus on the factors you can control, will help you meet your goal – whether it’s simply to finish a race or to beat your personal best time.

Creating Performance Expectations and Behavioral Change
Let’s say that you want to run a faster 10K race segment. You might determine
that to achieve that goal in training, you will need to achieve a faster 400-meter
time. Thus you will need to engage in a new or additional training process or
behavior, such as running some 400-meter target velocity intervals. Further,
you need to run those intervals regularly for a period of time before your target
race, thereby incorporating a series of short task goals in training that are likely
to help you achieve your long-term outcome goals. If you have positive experiences
in running intervals, making the change at this time will be quite easy
because you already have experienced the value of doing so. However, if you
have never run them before or have had negative experiences or beliefs associated
with pain, injury, embarrassment, or lack of effectiveness in running, the
task will be more challenging. Two things will be required: a stimulus for the
task and something to immediately reinforce the behavior. A location, training
time, and partner or coach make for excellent stimuli. The latter can also
be reinforcers if you choose the right people—those who can help you see the
positives in the process and who have value to you. But to continue to perform
the task over time, you must get intrinsic value from it in a way that offsets
potential negatives or drawbacks.

In a typical scenario, you might choose to run as fast as possible for 400 meters
several times until fatigue causes you to stop. While there may be an immediate
feeling of satisfaction in completing a difficult task, that is often offset by the
fatigue that occurs either immediately after the bout or later in the day and the
memory of the pain felt during the session. In later sessions of this unplanned,
unregulated type of training, cumulative fatigue will often prevent successful
duplication of the task. You end up failing on one or more levels again.
An alternative approach is to establish a realistic expectation of target times
or velocity for a realistic number of intervals. This should be based on abilities
or recent accomplishments in training rather than on the expectations of others.
Performance testing and a knowledgeable coach are helpful in identifying realistic
expectations. In this scenario it is also better to be conservative initially.
It’s much easier to set progressively higher goals in a training session (at the
microlevel—“Gee, I feel good today; let’s go a little faster than planned”) and
over the course of a training program (at the macrolevel—“Gee, I think that
I can set a lower time goal for the upcoming race than I did a month ago”).
Going backward—lowering expectations and reducing goals—is more difficult
and might have very negative long-term effects.

Run the intervals at the projected target velocity and distance and within
your current comfort zone, thereby meeting your basic training goal for the
session. Doing so provides the first significant intrinsic reinforcement. A key
will also be to reduce the inherent punishment of the situation—to accomplish
this kind of work without creating unacceptable pain, injury, or fatigue.

Objectively measure your efforts with a heart rate monitor and sense of
exertion to provide feedback. (Chapter 5 contains details on this.) In future
sessions, either increase the pace or run more intervals, but only as doing so
becomes easier to achieve. Make adjustments in small increments. An important
aphorism here, and actually for training in general, is “Gradual change
leads to permanent changes.”

The refinement inherent in training this way allows a high level of training
pleasure and is also a more effective approach physiologically, as discussed
in chapter 1. A strong coach or training partner can further the process by
providing external encouragement of your ability to meet the goal of running
a given pace and time rather than running as hard as you can. With
appropriate timing and recovery you will see progress in the successive sessions
in the form of lower effort and heart rate, improved recovery between
work bouts, and less fatigue as you perform the work. That way, you create
numerous intrinsic reinforcers in the process. You can further this reinforcement
by reviewing the outcomes in your training records. Finally, adapting
to the training will lead to improved race performance, possibly the strongest
reinforcing factor of all.

Periodically, however, issues you cannot control may interfere with your ability
to complete a task. Maybe one day the temperature is extremely high and
your heart rate is elevated. At that point you should be flexible in evaluating
your progress in your goal. If you do not modify expectations to match changed
environmental conditions, you may view such a session as a failure, which can
lead to a downward spiral of lack of motivation and the perception that you are
therefore a failure as an athlete. This can lead to the plan-disruption effect: If you
drop out of a planned workout just once, you consider the plan and yourself to
be failures. The program is broken and no longer exists for you. Consequently,
you give up on the new behavior.

To deal with this problem, outside assistance and technical expertise can be
very useful. An informed coach, for instance, will be able to reinforce the idea
that a given performance in more difficult conditions may be the equivalent of
actual improvement. Or you might conclude that you failed to get a good night’s
sleep the night before. Giving up in a hurry would be both a training mistake and
a missed opportunity to improve by developing a new skill. For instance, you
might need to focus on developing improved consistency in sleep and recovery
by modifying the sleep environment so that you can adapt to similar training
in the future. Of course, that would require additional behavioral change. Once
mistakes or failures are viewed optimistically as opportunities for improvement
through change rather than as failures, motivation can remain high. Another
way to put it is “When something that seems to be bad happens, try to use it
for good.” Alternatively, if you can see the “mistake” coming, by realizing early
that you are not ready for the set or session as it occurs, then you can also end
or modify the session, essentially making a midstream adjustment that will be
a more successful use of your efforts in the long run.

Potential Physiological Benefits of Altitude Training

This is an excellent excerpt reprinted from Burke’s book with permission with permission from Human Kinetics, High-Tech Cycling-2nd Edition.

“Human physiology is affected in different ways at high altitude. In general, the various systems of the human body—pulmonary, cardiovascular, endocrine, skeletal muscles—respond and adjust in an effort to provide enough oxygen to survive in the hypoxic environment of high altitude. Some of these life-supporting physiological responses may also enhance athletic performance, particularly in endurance sports.

The scientific rationale for using altitude training for the enhancement of aerobic performance is based on the body’s response to changes in the partial pressure of inspired oxygen (PIO2) and the partial pressure of oxygen in the arterial blood (PaO2). PIO2 at sea level is equal to 149 mmHg. At Mexico City (2300 m, 7544 ft), PIO2 drops to approximately 123 mmHg. At the summit of Mt. Everest (8852 m, 29,035 ft), PIO2 is approximately 50 mmHg or only about 30% of sea level PIO2.

High-Tech Cycling book coverBecause of the altitude-induced decrease in PIO2, there is a decrease in PaO2, which leads to a drop in renal PaO2 and renal tissue oxygenation (Ou et al. 1998; Richalet et al. 1994). It is hypothesized that this reduction in renal tissue oxygenation stimulates the synthesis and release of erythropoietin (EPO) (Porter and Goldberg 1994; Richalet et al. 1994), the principal hormone that regulates erythrocyte (RBC) and hemoglobin production. In turn, an increase in serum EPO concentration stimulates the synthesis of new RBCs in the red bone marrow by promoting the cellular growth of immature erythrocytes, specifically the colony-forming unit-erythroid (CFU-E). Erythropoietin receptors are present on the surface of CFU-E. Binding of EPO to CFU-E receptors initiates the production of cellular transcription factors, synthesis of membrane and cytoskeletal proteins, synthesis of heme and hemoglobin, and the terminal differentiation of cells (Bell 1996). The RBC maturation process takes five to seven days from the initial altitude-induced increase in serum EPO (Bell 1996; Flaharty et al. 1990).

These hematological changes may significantly improve an athlete’s V·O2max by enhancing the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen to exercising muscles. It has been shown that improvements in RBC mass, hemoglobin concentration, and V·O2max enhance aerobic performance (Berglund and Ekblom 1991; Birkeland et al. 2000; Ekblom and Berglund 1991). Essentially, many athletes and coaches view altitude training as a natural or legal method of blood doping.

Research by Chapman, Stray-Gundersen, and Levine (1998) suggests that some athletes experience a better hematological response at altitude than others do. Female and male collegiate runners who completed either LHTL or traditional “live high, train high” altitude training were classified as responders or nonresponders based on their performance in a postaltitude 5-km run. On average, responders demonstrated a significant 4% improvement (37 s) in the postaltitude 5-km run versus their prealtitude performance; nonresponders were approximately 1% slower (14 s). Hematological data showed that responders had a significantly larger increase in serum EPO (52%) compared with nonresponders, who demonstrated a 34% increase in serum EPO. Similarly, postaltitude RBC mass for responders was 8% higher (p < 0.05), but nonresponders’ RBC mass was only 1% higher (not statistically significant) compared with prealtitude values. A breakdown of responders indicated that 82% came from the LHTL group, and 18% came from the “live high, train high” group. The authors concluded that each athlete may need to follow an altitude training program that places the athlete at an individualized, optimal altitude for living and another altitude for training, thereby producing the best possible hematological response.

Skeletal Muscle
As described, the primary reason endurance athletes train at altitude is to increase RBC mass and hemoglobin concentration. In addition, they may gain secondary physiological benefits as a result of altitude exposure. For example, altitude training has been shown to increase skeletal muscle capillarity (Desplanches et al. 1993; Mizuno et al. 1990). In theory, this physiological adaptation enhances the exercising muscles’ ability to extract oxygen from the blood.

Other favorable skeletal muscle microstructure changes that occur as a result of training at altitude include increased concentrations of myoglobin (Terrados et al. 1990), increased mitochondrial oxidative enzyme activity (Terrados et al. 1990), and a greater number of mitochondria (Desplanches et al. 1993), all of which serve to enhance the rate of oxygen utilization and aerobic energy production.

Nevertheless, scientific data in support of altitude-induced skeletal muscle adaptations are minimal, particularly among well-trained athletes. Only Mizuno and colleagues (1990) examined elite athletes; Desplanches and colleagues (1993) and Terrados and colleagues (1990) examined the effect of altitude training on the skeletal muscle characteristics of untrained individuals. Additional studies conducted on elite athletes failed to demonstrate significant changes in skeletal muscle microstructure caused by altitude training (Saltin et al. 1995; Terrados et al. 1988). Furthermore, Desplanches and colleagues (1993) conducted their study at impractical simulated elevations (4100 to 5700 m, 13,450 to 18,700 ft), an altitude too high for athletes to train at. Thus, based on the current scientific literature, it is unclear whether altitude training, as practiced by most elite athletes at moderate elevations of 1800 to 3050 m (6000 to 10,000 ft) improves oxygen extraction and utilization via favorable changes in skeletal muscle capillarity, myoglobin, mitochondrial oxidative enzyme activity, and mitochondrial density. Additional research is warranted.

Another important physiological adaptation that may occur as a result of exposure to moderate altitude is an improvement in the capacity of the skeletal muscle and blood to buffer the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+). High concentrations of H+ are known to contribute to skeletal muscle fatigue by impairing actin-myosin crossbridge cycling, reducing the sensitivity of troponin for calcium (Ca2+) and inhibiting the enzyme phosphofructokinase (PFK) (McComas 1996). Thus, an enhanced H+ buffering capacity may have a beneficial effect on aerobic and anaerobic performance.

In support of this, Mizuno and colleagues (1990) reported a significant 6% increase in the buffering capacity of the gastrocnemius muscle of elite male cross-country skiers who lived at 2100 m (6890 ft) and trained at 2700 m (8860 ft) for 14 days. Significant improvements in maximal O2 deficit (29%) and treadmill run time to exhaustion (17%) were observed after the athletes returned to sea level. In addition, a positive correlation (r = 0.91, p < 0.05) was demonstrated between the relative increase in buffering capacity of the gastrocnemius muscle and treadmill run time to exhaustion.

Gore and colleagues (2001) reported that skeletal muscle buffer capacity increased 18% (p < 0.05) in male triathletes, cyclists, and cross-country skiers following 23 days of living at 3000 m (9840 ft) and training at 600 m (1970 ft). Furthermore, they found that mechanical efficiency significantly improved during a 4 3 4-min submaximal cycling test following the 23-day LHTL period.

The precise mechanisms responsible for enhanced skeletal muscle buffering capacity following high altitude training are unclear but may be related to changes in creatine phosphate and/or muscle protein concentrations (Mizuno et al. 1990). Improvements in blood buffering capacity may be due to increases in bicarbonate (Nummela and Rusko 2000) or hemoglobin concentration.

The Lactate Curve

What is the lactate curve? Why do I need to know the lactate curve? How does it fit into my triathlon training? When should it fit in my triathlon training? How does it affect my triathlon racing? What does the lactate curve mean to endurance athletes?

Peter Jannsen answers many of these questions in his book, “Lactate Threshold Training.” An excerpt follows that will likely wet your appetite to learn more about how it can help your racing.

lactate threshold training“The lactate content of the blood is a parameter of great importance. This content is measured in millimoles of lactate per liter of blood. Healthy persons at rest have values roughly between 1 and 2 millimoles per liter, and strenuous exercise increases this value. Even slight increases in lactate content (6 to 8 millimoles per liter) may impair an athlete’s coordination. Regularly high lactate values impair aerobic endurance capacity.

For this reason, athletes should be prudent with the number of intensive workloads they undergo in a certain period of time. The workload intensities needed for various workouts can be determined by means of the lactate curve. Graph 89 shows the relationship between lactate content of the blood and the intensity of exercise. Intensity is expressed as running pace in meters per second.

To obtain a lactate curve, the athlete should run the same distance a number of times, each time at a higher pace. After every run, determine the lactate concentration in the blood. Every distance should be run at an even pace, and the running pace should be increased in small steps. The length of the run should be such that the athlete needs at least 5 minutes to cover the distance. When well-trained athletes run slowly, they have low lactate values; their energy supplies are fully aerobic. When the pace is increased, the curve begins to rise; the working muscles do produce lactate, but the quantities are so small that, for the most part, they can be neutralized by the body. It is a widespread belief that this is the case between 2 and 4 millimoles per liter. Therefore, this area is called the aerobic-anaerobic transition zone.

Each athlete can maintain a certain running pace for a long period of time without lactate accumulation in the body. If the pace is increased to a certain point, ongoing acidosis will occur, depending on the degree and duration of the increase, and at a certain moment this acidosis will force the athlete to stop. The lactate content that is measured at this borderline pace is also called the anaerobic threshold. The anaerobic threshold value is around a lactate content of 4 millimoles per liter. Exercise surpassing the anaerobic threshold will inevitably increase lactate content within the body.

Thus, exercise up to this level of the aerobic threshold is fully aerobic. Lactate content at the aerobic threshold is about 2 millimoles per liter. Exercise within the aerobic-anaerobic transition zone is more intensive, and energy supply is both aerobic and anaerobic. Production and neutralization of lactate are balanced. This zone is between 2 and 4 millimoles per liter.

The anaerobic threshold occurs when exercise at a high intensity results in an accumulation of lactate in the blood. Therefore, this type of exercise can be maintained for a limited period of time. But at an intensity just below the anaerobic threshold, this lactate content can be kept at a steady-state level, and this type of exercise may be maintained for a longer period of time, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Lactate content at the anaerobic threshold is for many athletes about 4 millimoles per liter, but there are wide individual variations among athletes. Anaerobic threshold can be as low as 2 to 3 millimoles per liter or as high as 6 to 8 millimoles per liter. By drawing a lactate curve for every athlete, the anaerobic threshold can be found and subsequently used to set training intensities. The best way to find the anaerobic threshold is to determine maximal lactate steady state (MLSS), which is discussed elsewhere in the book.

Endurance capacity can best be trained by endurance workouts around the level of the anaerobic threshold, that is, workouts with lactate values of 2 to 6 millimoles per liter. These values may be determined according to the athlete’s test results. Very well-trained people mostly train their endurance capacity at somewhat lower values, between 2 and 3 millimoles per liter. Less well-trained persons often cannot help but peak to higher levels. They then surpass their anaerobic threshold and make their workouts less effective. Though they often feel satisfied with a strenuous workout, this type of workout does more damage than good.

The threshold pace is the speed that corresponds with the anaerobic threshold. Above the anaerobic threshold this speed can be maintained for a short period of time, but below the threshold it can be maintained 1 to 1.5 hours. The threshold pace, the running or cycling speed at the heart rate deflection point (HRdefl), is also called the V4 pace, as discussed in chapter 3. However, the term V4 is somewhat misleading, because many athletes have an anaerobic threshold over or under 4 millimoles per liters. For example, an athlete with an anaerobic threshold of 6 millimoles per liter could be said to have a threshold pace of V6.

Sport-specific performance capacity could be defined as the speed that is reached at a lactate content of 4 millimoles per liter, or V4. V4 is an important indicator of the athlete’s capacities. Any improvement of V4 pace will also improve performance capacity. Regular V4 tests indicate the athlete’s condition, so athletes can be monitored in their development and can be mutually compared. But remember that V4 is not the threshold pace for everybody, because many athletes have an anaerobic threshold under or over 4 millimoles per liter. Therefore, it might be better to test MLSS than V4.

Recovery workouts should not be intensive, and lactate content should remain less than 2 millimoles per liter. Intensive interval workouts give high lactate values, far surpassing 4 millimoles per liter. The effect of training will be that the lactate curve shifts to the right, as shown in graph 90.

Therefore, training intensities should be readjusted from time to time, and a new test procedure with blood sampling will be necessary. Not every athlete has access to blood testing, but other methods can supply the same or at least the most important information. All these other methods of finding the anaerobic threshold are discussed elsewhere in this book.”

Peaking for a race

There’s a good article on trifuel on peaking for a race. I disagree there is “much confusion” (in the first paragraph) but it is a good article on tapering and peaking for your race which you DO need to plan in advance.

Periodization is the science of peaking for any athletic event for any athlete. Periodization Training For Sports is the book I recommend – a terrific read and 2nd edition has information for triathlon.

Four Cs of bike racing

Ever ridden at 5:00am on a cold morning? Ever wonder why? Ever feel way out-classed at the starting line? At some point I think every cyclist and triathlete has done both. This except from Bike Racing 101 (by Kendra Wenzel and Rene Wenzel reprinted with permission) will help you walk through and prepare for that inevitable feeling.

“You can make use of tactics successfully even in your first race if you use the building blocks of strategy we call the four Cs: course, competition, conditions, and confidence.

Just as every bit of preparation you do should focus on the goals you set up for yourself in chapter 3, the races you choose and the way you conduct yourself in those races must further those goals. Applying the four Cs to each race you enter will go a long way in ensuring that you move closer to your goals with each race. In chapters 15 through 18, we apply the four Cs to each type of road racing, pointing out the nuances of each race and the preparation, skills, and practice you need to be successful.

The course is one of the most important factors in how you perform in a race. Knowledge of the hills or gravel sections is strategic information. Even choosing to do the race (or not) based on its terrain is a strategic decision in your race season. Relate your strengths and weaknesses to areas of the course. Does the course have hills, flats, or windy sections that favor your strengths? In which areas might you be vulnerable and have difficulty following stronger riders?

All riders should study course information ahead of the race, but many don’t bother. Knowing the course well can go a long way in improving tactics and morale. While the most effective way to scout a course is to ride it ahead of time, it won’t always be possible. In that case, find a map that details the roads of the course. The race Web site may even link to a map of the course. Perhaps the promoter has provided a map of the course in the race packet or has posted a magnified version on a bulletin board near the start. There may even be a course profile showing the race’s climbs and descents.

Be familiar with the course so that you will recognize major turns coming up. The misfortune of going off course, even if it is not directly your fault, is still your responsibility according to race rules. Some riders even write course landmarks onto a piece of athletic tape and then tape it to their stem before the start. This is particularly effective in longer races.

Once you have information about a race, process the facts. Knowing a course has 360 vertical feet (110 meters) of climbing per lap is a fact. But knowing that the 360 feet all occur in one 10 percent grade climb after a sharp right-hand turn, and that you need a 39 x 23 gear for it, is tactical knowledge. Ask riders who have done a particular course in the past, particularly those in your category who have done well there, to fill you in about the course’s challenges. If you don’t know someone who has completed the course, ask riders before the start of your race.

Once you are at a race venue, become as familiar with the course as possible, especially near the start and finish. There’s no excuse for not knowing the first and last kilometers of a race; you should have arrived in plenty of time to check them out, even if you have to ride on the sidewalk while other races are in progress. Courses often have signs posted marking 5 kilometers, 1 kilometer, 500 meters, and 200 meters to go. Look for landmarks to signify these points in case you miss the signs in the heat of the finish.

While the course provides the venue, the competitors make the race. As you race, take the time to discover the strongest competitors and teams weekend after weekend. Study their strengths and weaknesses. Just as important, consider how the other teams and individuals in your race may interpret your strengths and weaknesses.

Being familiar with your competitors can remove some of the element of surprise in a race by helping you to anticipate their moves and to make moves of your own to isolate their weaknesses. If the same climber wins races weekend after weekend by climbing away on the main hill and riding solo to the finish, examine how this individual is allowed to get away with it race after race. Maybe one answer is to get to the hill before that rider, which would require an attempt to break away without that rider earlier in the race.

In beginning racing, individuals rather than teams often affect the outcome. However, some individuals in the same club may be organized enough in the category 4 and 5 races for you to take advantage of that team’s strategy for your own benefit. More details on this are included in the upcoming chapters for each event.

As you prepare for a race, consider the weather conditions and potential wind. When you arrive at a race venue, check the direction and strength of the wind and consider how it might affect various parts of the course. Knowing which way the wind blows will help you decide which side of the pack to be in at any point in the race. It will also help you plan ahead for the wind you will encounter after the next turn and allow you to set up ahead of time by moving up or to the protected side.

Plan ahead by bringing extra clothing for cold days and extra water for hot days. Will you need long-fingered gloves and booties for an early-season race? Why take the chance—bring them along. Check for wind strength before deciding whether to use a disk wheel. Are the time savings of a deep dish or disk wheel worth the swerving the wind might cause? Check the pavement type on the race course and consider how it might affect tire traction if rain is coming. You may have to rein in your need for speed on descents and corners. If you have the option, bring sunglasses appropriate for the light conditions—dark for sunny days, clear for rainy or nighttime racing, or amber for cloudy, dark days.

Losing to another competitor’s strength or wits is honorable. Losing to the weather is inexcusable. You don’t have to be a victim of wind and weather. Use the conditions to your advantage!

Confidence is taking everything you know about yourself and tying it to the strategic fundamentals we’ve discussed. It is understanding your own strengths and weaknesses and gaining experience in group rides so that you know whether you are basically a climber, sprinter, time trialist, or all-around rider. Confidence is having the patience to wait for the right moment to show your strength, rather than wasting energy trying to be a different kind of rider.

Confidence is having an awareness of your current fitness level and knowing whether you are on track with your training program and goals. It is also the ability to conduct yourself in accordance with your goals. For instance, if you are using races early in the season simply for training without worrying about the outcome, make constant attempts to get away for training purposes and don’t worry that you may potentially break away with other riders who can possibly outsprint you at the end. You might make a gamble, such as a long solo breakaway, just for the training—an action you might not try in a more important race if you are a good sprinter.

Confidence is knowing you are strong on the flats, for instance, and the 98-pound climber who hopes to leave you behind in the hills will struggle in the flat crosswind if you go to the front of the pack and hammer. It’s knowing you thrive in the heat or suffer inordinately in the cold. It’s knowing that the course where you were behind the leader by 10 minutes last year won’t have you suffering nearly as much this year due to your improvement. Confidence is knowing that you mixed a weaker energy drink for this weekend’s race because last weekend the stronger concoction gave you a stomachache.

While these concepts might seem vague when you consider them in general, when you apply them in a race they make sense. After you finish a race, apply the four Cs again, checking to see whether you were true to your goals and determining where you could make improvements. You will see in the following chapters how valuable this simple approach can be.”

Dave Scott stretching video

Dave Scott, who is a six time IronMan World Champion, and show some of his favorite stretches in this video. They include stretches for your glutes, hip flexor, piriformis, hamstring, quad and shoulder girdle.

Enjoy and remember to check out the resources page with other great videos. Our online store offer terrific videos as well.

The Science of Cycling Position

Here’s another excellent excerpt reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics of High-Performance Cycling by Asker Jeukendrup

cycling performance“Throughout this chapter, we have used a set of reference values for aerodynamic drag area. Although these values represent good approximations to the drag area of a 70-kilogram (154-pound) rider in each position, those values are not fixed. Rather, a cyclist can influence his drag area in several ways. Riding with knees close to the centerline of the bicycle frame can reduce drag area by approximately 8 percent compared with riding with knees wide apart. This knee position will affect drag similarly whether the rider uses conventional racing handlebars or aerobars.

For riding with standard handlebars, arm position, including elbow bend and forearm alignment, can even more dramatically influence drag area. Bending the elbows allows the rider to lower his torso and thus reduce frontal area. Indeed, carefully positioned arms with the forearms horizontal and parallel to the bicycle can reduce drag area by up to 12 percent compared with widely positioned arms or straightened elbows. A wide-elbow position may result from poor technique, but it also may be due to poor bike fit and thus may not be within the control of the rider. Specifically, if the saddle-to-handlebar distance is too short, the rider may be forced to widen the arms so that they do not contact the legs. Consequently, drag area may be substantially increased because of a poorly fitted frame-stem-handlebar combination.

Optimal Time-Trial Position
Riders often ask, “How do I optimize my time-trial position?” The simple answer is, “Go to a wind tunnel and have your aerodynamic drag measured in various positions.” But, of course, not every cyclist has the opportunity to take part in wind-tunnel optimization.

As an alternative, we offer several suggestions that will help riders position themselves using only a trainer and a mirror or video camera. We recommend the following procedures to establish a preliminary position before wind-tunnel testing, and this often will result in a position that is within a few percentages of the optimal drag area.

Over the past 10 years, two very different approaches for optimizing aerodynamic position have been used. During the early 1990s, it was recommended that riders use a dedicated time-trial bicycle with a steep seat-tube angle (78 to 84 degrees). With bicycles like this, a low drag-area position could be achieved with a relatively formulaic procedure. Those positions are, at the present time, allowed for triathlons and by some national cycling federations. However, UCI rules currently prohibit forward seat positions. Within the current UCI rules, low drag-area positions can be achieved but the procedure is less formulaic and depends on individual morphological characteristics.

To achieve a low drag position with a forward seat position, start with your current road position. You achieve the aero position by “rolling” that position forward until the torso is horizontal. Specifically, the elbow pads should be lowered and the seat should be moved forward (and slightly up) so that the body rotates about the bottom bracket and the joint angles at the hip and knee are maintained. You can use a mirror or a video camera to assure yourself that your torso is horizontal and that your relative hip, knee, and ankle angles are maintained during this procedure. This procedure usually results in seat positions that require a bicycle seat-tube angle of 78 to 84 degrees depending on body type. Taller or more slender riders tend to require less steep seat-tube angles, whereas shorter or more muscular riders require greater seat-tube angles to achieve a horizontal torso. You can achieve a similar position using a standard frame with a forward-angled seat post and a long stem. However, that configuration may result in a bicycle that may not handle well. If you are to use a forward position, we recommend that the frame be specifically designed for proper handling with that position.

Once you have achieved the horizontal torso position, it has been our experience that details regarding positioning of the arms are less critical. Changing elbow-pad width (center to center) from 11 to 14 centimeters has almost no effect on total drag area, but wider positions (greater than 20 centimeters) can increase drag area by 0 to 3 percent. Similarly, arm angles (measured from horizontal) of 5 to 40 degrees have very little influence (0 to 3 percent) on drag area. The small effect of these changes on drag area suggests that, once a horizontal torso position is established, differences in arm position only affect the location of the arm’s frontal area but do not significantly affect coefficient of drag or total drag area.

Cyclists must accomplish aerodynamic positioning for bicycles with conventional seat-tube angles with more subtlety. Initially, riders must learn to roll their hips over as described by Lemond and Gordis (1987). This posture can be difficult to adopt, but it is an essential element of a low drag-area position with a standard bicycle. The level to which the elbow pads can be lowered will be limited by contact between thigh and torso (which will occur at acute hip angles). Because the elbow pads cannot be radically lowered, frontal area cannot be dramatically reduced for a conventional seat-tube-angle bicycle. Rather, reductions in drag area must be accomplished with careful positioning of the hands, arms, and shoulders to reduce the coefficient of drag. Specifically, the width of the hands and elbows and the angle of the forearms are critical elements that, in an optimal configuration, act to channel airflow around the rider’s torso. Additionally, the contour of the rider’s shoulders can influence the point at which airflow separates. Rounding the shoulders and rolling them forward (i.e., protraction and downward rotation of the shoulder joint) can allow airflow to stay attached further around the rider’s body and thereby reduce pressure drag. The combined effects of redirecting (arm and hand position) and smoothing (shoulder contour) airflow around the body can reduce drag area by 10 to 20 percent.

Comfort and Power
Optimized aerodynamic positions can be uncomfortable in two ways. First, by rotating the hips forward, the cyclist places pressure directly on highly sensitive areas. Additional seat padding may help to distribute that pressure but probably will not completely eliminate the discomfort. Some riders try to alleviate this problem by tilting the nose of the saddle down, but that approach will result in a tendency for the rider to slide forward, off of the saddle. That sliding force must be restrained with forces produced at the shoulders and arms that can become fatigued very quickly. Second, riders may experience muscle soreness or strain in the muscles that extend the neck. This discomfort will be reduced with training and can be ameliorated with stretching and massage.

Riders often express concern that changes in position may compromise their power or efficiency. Heil et al. (1995) investigated the effects of seat-tube angle on metabolic efficiency and reported that efficiency was significantly greater with 83- and 90-degree seat-tube angles than with a 69-degree seat-tube angle. Similarly, Price and Donne (1997) reported that efficiency with an 80-degree seat-tube angle was higher than that with 68 or 74 degrees. Thus, steep seat-tube-angle bicycles should not decrease metabolic efficiency and, indeed, may improve efficiency. Conversely, Heil et al. (1997) reported that reductions in mean hip angle increased cardiovascular stress for a given power output. Such decreases in hip angle often occur when riders attempt to reduce their frontal area by lowering their elbows excessively. Therefore, you must exercise caution when adjusting your position to avoid excessive hip flexion.

This exploration has produced several useful findings for the cyclist. Typical cycling positions exhibit drag-area values that range from 0.48 to 0.27 meter squared, which can mean up to a 20 percent difference in velocity for a given power output. Surprisingly, the proportional difference in velocity is nearly independent of power, suggesting that novice and elite cyclists will realize similar benefits from improved aerodynamic positioning. When a rider is cycling uphill, differences in cycling velocity related to drag area are markedly reduced but are still substantial for less steep grades and for high power outputs. Even though the effect of drag area is reduced during uphill cycling, adopting a standing position is not recommended because of increases in metabolic energy expenditure. Finally, for any given cycling position, drag area can be affected by the position of the knees, elbows, arms, and shoulders.”

Periodization of Training for Triathletes

The competitive season for triathlons is typically May through September. Within that period you might have a race you really want to do well in, often called your “A” race, and those used more for tracking progress.

Periodization of training means planning your training cycles to maximize your performance for competition. You might know this intuitively but did not know there was a science behind it. There is a Tudor Bompa is regarded as the guru of periodization of training. I read his first edition “Periodization Training for Sports” when my son was on the high school track team. I was actually able to email correspond with an athlete who said he used that book as his training bible, and he went on to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Training is broken down into yearly cycles, or phases:

  • Anatomical Adaptation (getting your body and soft tissues ready for training)
  • Hypertrophy (building muscle mass)
  • Maximum Strength (taking the gains is mass and making them stronger)
  • Conversion (taking strength gains and converting them to sport-specific power)
  • Competitive and Transition (your races and before you start the training year over again)

Periodization of Training

In the second edition of Periodization Training for Sports, Tudor Bompa and Michael Carrera add some things that might be more interest to triathletes than just the science. It offers a yearly plan including the phases above. If you don’t think triathletes need strength training, ask Joe Friel and Tudor Bompa. You can benefit from strength training. The book walks you through the science of what to do, how to plan it, and break it down to smaller cycles (monthly and weekly) to maximize your performance.

It tells you the dominant energy sources, energy suppliers, limiting factors and training objectives, plans to train each energy systems, and nutrition. By the time you reach the plans, you understand and can immediately apply them because you already understand the science and how to get the most out of your training.

Here’s a good excerpt on Principles of Strength Training.

If you’re like me, you will enjoy learning the science behind the training theory. Then you will adapt to your own training and maximize your performance.