Triathlon Coaching
Power Training

Sweet Spot Training to Get Fitter Faster

How to Use Sweet Spot Training to Get Fitter Faster, Over the past few years, the concept of Sweet Spot Training has gained a reputation as being one of the most time effective ways of getting stronger on the bike.

How to Use Sweet Spot Training to Get Fitter Faster

Over the past few years, the concept of Sweet Spot Training has gained a reputation as being one of the most time effective ways of getting stronger on the bike. Best used with a power meter, but still doable with heart rate, Sweet Spot Training, or SST, is done by doing intervals at 85 to 93 percent of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). If you do not have a power meter, you can use Lactate Threshold (LT), though it is not as accurate.

Where is the Sweet Spot

Other training zones have very specific names like Endurance or Anaerobic because it defines the system you are working when at that effort. Sweet spot however crosses over two zones and covers the high end tempo to low end threshold zones. To be more precise, founder and head coach at FasCat Coaching in Boulder, Colo. Frank Overton who has been using SST with his athletes for more than 10 years defines it as 84 to 97% of your FTP.

Why Does it Work?

The reason this range is so effective is that it allows you hit a number of key physiological areas at once in a short amount of time, so you get a tremendous bang for your buck. For the time crunched triathlete, SST can be a lifesaver. The chart below from Dr. Andy Coggan shows exactly what types of adaptations SST can provide

Sweet Spot Training

As the chart shows, for all but the most explosive efforts, SST training can be effective at improving your fitness. With SST, you can build your mitochondria (the key to a strong aerobic base), increase your lactate threshold (helping you handle intense efforts), increase muscle glycogen storage (up your body’s ability to store energy), and increase your VO2 max (raise your physiological potential). All of this can be done from holding SST for 30 minutes to three hours.

How To Sweet Spot

How is SST best accomplished? Should you do several short intervals? What about one long interval? What about doing it in a group setting? Many athletes start with what has become known as the classic SST workout, 2×20 with 5 minutes of rest.

However, that classic workout may be a bit too hard to start with. When it comes to starting out with SST, or even for athletes coming back after a season break.

This sort of structured training plan can help you get the most of the time you have available to train, contact us to find out more.

Shrewsbury Triathlon Coaching

The Top 7 Reasons to Work With a Coach

For many athletes, working with a coach has made the difference between just “training” and doing focused workouts to meet a goal. We asked a simple question on Facebook, “Why do you work with a coach?” and these are the top responses we received from athletes. Which of these aspects can you benefit from the most?

1. Structure

For many athletes, setting up the structure of their training is the hardest step. There are many components involved in how you prepare for your event. Factors like experience, goal time, time to train and others all come into play. This also makes it confusing. When should you do a base period? How long should your build be? You can certainly work to manage all of this, but it can frustrating. One athlete wrote in that having a coach helps her, “To avoid obsessing over my training.” Another athlete wrote that having a coach helps since it provides, “Focused effective workouts versus my rambling attempts.”

2. Accountability

Another popular answer, accountability, is something a coach can provide in a one-on-one manner. For some, knowing someone else is going to see if they miss or shorten a workout gets them out the door. As one athlete put it, “I can not follow a plan without guidance and being checked.” For those that need to have someone else to be accountable to, nothing is more effective than a coach.

3. Motivation

Hand in hand with accountability, motivation was another popular answer. Daily training, while effective, can also be draining. From hard tempo runs to long bike rides, the training can be daunting at times. Having someone else to cheer you on and push your limits can make all the difference. “I know what I need to know but find excuses,” wrote one athlete. Having a coach encourage you through training, and even through the down days can keep you on track to reach your goals. The mental aspect of training can not be underestimated. When you have support you can reach higher. One comment that stood out was, “Because he makes me feel like a world champion!”

4. Provide Wisdom/Smarts

There are certainly plenty of resources available to athletes- at times it can be too much. Picking and choosing from the multitude of literature on training can be time consuming and stressful. Having someone invested in your goals to wade through that and provide a clear plan allows you to focus solely on getting the work done. One commenter wrote that their coach, “Has forgotten more than I know about how to race and how to get faster.” Additionally, coaches can shorten the learning curve of endurance sports training. They can, as one athlete put it, “impart some of their wisdom and experience on those of us hoping to achieve what they have.” Coaches also give the feedback necessary to avoid making the same mistakes repeatedly by providing unbiased comments. They give, “Impartial advice and critical analysis,” as one commenter wrote.

5. Lower the Chance of Overtraining/Injury

Endurance training can be addictive, and overtraining is a real concern. Having someone else to monitor not just your daily workouts but your overall health can keep you from overdoing it. “Without her I’d be doing nothing or way too much,” wrote one athlete about her coach. Additionally, rest is as necessary as training in order to make fitness gains. For many athletes, taking a rest is the hardest part of training. Coaches can, “reign me in and rest,” as one athlete wrote. Going too hard, too often can lead to injury, something no athlete wants to experience. Having a coach pull back your training before an injury happens is highly valuable.

6. Time Management

This is an area where a coach can help the most. As one athlete wrote, “I know I can apply effort. Being short on time, I need someone that knows more than me to make sure I’m putting it where it counts.” The majority of athletes have limited time to spend training, so ensuring that every session matters and no time is wasted is key. Having an unbiased expert create a plan that works with your schedule and directly address your strengths and weaknesses can take you to the next level without wasting your most precious resource- time.

7. To do the Thinking for Them

Whether it’s analyzing a run, looking at your overall season, or addressing a weakness, there is a seemingly never ending list of elements to incorporate into your plan. This can be overwhelming to many athletes. This is where the coach not only saves time but frustration as well. “I don’t want spend time on thinking what to do, to improve my performance,” wrote in one athlete.

Many athletes wrote in citing several of the elements in the list above. That’s one of the biggest benefits of all; the fact that you can gain so many advantages from one single person. We are encouraging athletes to dream bigger than ever for 2015, and as many coached athletes will agree with, working with a coach may be the smartest step you can take towards achieve those goals.

Book a free consultation with Ed Beech to find out more about how a coach could help you advance to the next level.

Article originally published by TrainingPeaks.

Many triathletes experience a fear of the open water. There are a number of things you can do to help prepare yourself and calm your nerves on race morning.

Drills to Prepare for Open Water

Many triathletes experience a fear of the open water.  There are a number of things you can do to help prepare yourself and calm your nerves on race morning.

To prepare for the triathlon swim, you need to train to race in the turbulence of open water. In addition to using open water swim technique, open water skills can be incorporated in the pool as drills during your swim session.  Sighting and bilateral breathing are two necessary skills for open water swimming that most triathletes learn early on in their training. However, there are other drills that you can practice in the pool that will prepare you for a variety of conditions that you will experience on race day.

Here are four drills that I often use with my athletes to help prepare them for race day.

WATER POLO DRILL

As a triathlete, you need to sight in order to look for buoys and stay on course. If not done correctly, sighting can result in your hips and legs dropping, causing drag and resulting in slower race times. This is a great drill to help you perfect your sighting without losing your swimming form.

To perform this drill, swim freestyle with your head above water looking straight forward.  Your turnover should be quick while maintaining your balance and kicking near the surface.

This is a challenging drill, so if you’re a weak swimmer I would suggest doing this earlier in your set of drills or during your warm-up before you get too tired.

SWIMMING WITHOUT GOGGLES

The triathlon swim can seem like a contact sport at times. Getting bumped into or diving into water can cause goggles to be accidentally knocked off or filled with water. Even if you put your goggles on under your cap, they can still be knocked out of place (but thankfully not lost forever).

Include swimming without goggles anytime during your swim session.  The familiarity of what you’ve already experienced in training will prepare you for that initial shock of having water hit your eyes if you ever lose your goggles so that you can continue your swim without losing much time or energy.

To avoid the irritation of chlorine and water in your eyes, keep your eyes closed while your face is in the water and open them when you breathe and sight.

SWIMMING WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED

This drill is a great way of knowing how straight you really do swim without following the black line. Veering off to one side indicates an asymmetry in your stroke or kick, which is not uncommon. Swimming straight can save minutes in your race by not zigzagging and adding extra yardage to the course.

Include this drill anytime by swimming as you normally would but with your eyes closed.  It’s helpful to know how many strokes you take to swim one length so that you don’t bump in the wall unexpectedly. I would also advise against doing this while sharing a lane (your lane buddy may get tired of getting bumped into).

SWIMMING WITH OTHERS IN THE SAME LANE AND DRAFTING

Swimming in a lane by yourself is always nice, but it doesn’t prepare you for the other triathletes racing next to you. This drill is especially important for those of you who are not comfortable being in close proximity to or being bumped into by the other athletes. While drafting is not legal on the bike, it is legal while swimming and it can shave off a lot of time on race day.

This drill can be done anytime in your swim session, but is especially useful when doing a faster set.  Grab a few of your swimming friends, squeeze into one lane, and go out fast at the same time.  This simulates the start of a race and once you’re all swimming, you can practice drafting off each other. To draft, either get behind or next to the hip of a swimmer who’s slightly faster than you are.

We race better by practicing and by feeling a familiarity with our experiences. While it may not be practical to swim in open water all the time, we can at least simulate the experience and improve our technique in the pool. No one knows what the conditions will be on race day, so be prepared to adjust to the water conditions and environment by including these drills in your swim workouts.

You may also like to read IRONMAN Race Preparation.

Maximise Your Final IRONMAN Race Preparation

IRONMAN Race Preparation

Maximise Your Final IRONMAN Race Preparation

ARTICLE 

No matter how many IRONMAN distance events one has done, nothing about the race should be taken for granted—especially your race arrival timing and preparation.

Considering a typical triathlete spends between three and five months meticulously preparing with huge amounts of physical training and mental energy invested in the fine tuning of every last detail—it makes sense to arrive at the race venue with extra time in hand.

A general rule of thumb is to arrive at least one day ahead for every time zone crossed to allow for sleep acclimatization. For most events, especially those with a major time or climate change involved, I like to have athletes come in four to five days early if possible.

For example, Tuesday or Wednesday for a Sunday race—especially if it is hot or a championship event. This gives ample opportunity to check out the course and staging areas as well as getting race expo and registration duties over with.

However, I often work with athletes who can spare only one or two days out of their week. What should an athlete with such limited time available?

Flying in only one or two days out is not an ideal situation as it adds another element of stress to an already busy time.

However, if last minute arrival is the only option, planning everything while in your last stages of training before you leave home will help pave the way for the smoothest event possible.

Areas to consider: Travel logistics, race venue familiarization, course recon, acclimatization and mental preparedness.

Logistics

Traveling with a bike is often the number one stressor of many athletes I talk to.

If you are not comfortable unpacking your bike and reassembling it safely or in a timely manner, contact a local shop or the mechanics on site to book a time for this.

Or, consider using a service like Race Force to take care of shipping everything for you. Be aware that you will be without your race bike for any number of days or weeks while it travels to your destination.

Above all else, having people know you will be arriving last minute will help alleviate the panic of searching around for someone to do the job.

Event Site and Race Course Familiarization

If the race is unfamiliar to you, do as much research on the venue as possible before you arrive. Analyze all aspects of the course. Print out course maps, drive the entire course and plan your nutrition accordingly based on where aid stations, shade and hilly sections are located. Use Best Bike Split to determine goal power for various parts of the course.

Arriving late to a race means having to forgo a course drive as sitting in a car for three-plus hours on a Friday before an IRONMAN is detrimental.

If you don’t have time to drive the course, use forums to get inside scoops on what to expect and things that are unique to the course. If driving to a destination race shortly before racing, get out regularly and stretch the legs or include a short 15 to 20 minute run daily to keep your legs fresh.

Spend the necessary time to orient yourself with your hotel and where the Expo and registration site are situated. Many events do not let you check in the day before the race, with IRONMAN, this needs to be done two days prior and then all gear bags packed.

This is an opportunity to organize all your gear at home in the appropriate bags while there isn’t the pressure of travel. Then transfer to the appropriate bags upon arrival.

Bring race day nutrition from home rather than scrambling from race expo to bike shop to running store to find your preferred gel or drink, possibly coming up empty handed and playing chance with a new item. This situation is becoming more and more common with the many varieties of bars and gels to choose from.

In order to keep a diet similar to what you are used to at home, do some research on local restaurants that serve your favorite meals or who are able to cater to special nutritional considerations.

If you are on a special diet, i.e. wheat or gluten-free, and need to bring specific food, you’ll need to research grocery stores in the local area that stocks them.

Most stores have websites you can check to be certain that the foods you require are available. Be prepared by carrying food with you so you don’t get stuck making poor nutritional choices. Have fruit or energy bars on hand and carry a full water bottle with a bit of electrolyte for better absorption—this is especially important during long flights.

Acclimatization

If you are travelling to a hot race be sure to include temperature and humidity acclimatizationsessions in the lead up to the event. I wrote about this last year and recommend including temperature specific sessions beginning at least three to four weeks out from your goal event. Make sure to determine your sweat loss and a corresponding fluid and sodium replenishment plan.

Try to keep some routine in your week. Schedule your workouts in advance, bring some good books, see a movie or schedule a midweek massage. You’ll have more time on your hands than usual with decreased training so take advantage of it wisely.

Mental Prep

You want to avoid over-thinking the race this week. Don’t try to cram things in, rather instead make time for yourself to visualize being successful. Any time you spend time mentally preparingis time well spent.

Although arriving late is never the ideal situation, planning as much as possible in advance will alleviate the stress of last-minute travel. It will also help relax the mind knowing you have done everything possible to be ready on race day.

Book a Coach Consultation with Ed Beech (Certified Triathlon Coach) to discuss preparation for your next race.

TrainingPeaks

TrainingPeaks Certified

TrainingPeaks Certified Triathlon Coach

Great news to add to my IRONMAN and British Triathlon Federation certifications, I am (Ed Beech) now a TrainingPeaks Certified Triathlon Coach, this means I have met all the coaching standards that TrainingPeak’s require and passed a final exam, you can check out my TrainingPeaks coaches profile HERE.

TrainingPeaks Level 1 Certification Requirements

  • Nationally recognized certification(s) in the sport(s) you coach
  • Proof of current liability insurance
  • Must be actively using a TrainingPeaks Coach Account for at least 6 consecutive months
  • TrainingPeaks Certification application completed
  • Complete the Level 1 Certification Course and receive a passing grade on the exam

TrainingPeaks Certified Triathlon CoachTrainingPeaks Certified Triathlon Coach

BTF CPD in Open Water Swimming

Some photos & course information from the BTF Open Water Coaching CPD I attended this weekend in Llanberis North Wales, the course was based from Snowdonia Water Sports who have a great facility right on the edge of the lake.

Overview

The one-day workshop was a mix of theory and practical designed to support the development of open water coaching knowledge and ability. There was also an opportunity to gain practical experience through coaching a group of open water swimmers.

Workshop Content Included

  • What types of activities can go into an open water session and how to integrate these into a session plan.
  • The health and safety of open water coaching and what to look for in a venue when delivering open water sessions.
  • Coaching skills for effective open water session delivery.
  • How to effectively manage a safety team.
Certified IRONMAN Coach

Certified IRONMAN Coach

IRONMAN Certified Coach BadgeFor the last few months I have been working towards my IRONMAN Certified coaching qualification and am pleased to say I have now qualified as an Certified IRONMAN Coach.

The course was a lot tougher and more in depth than I was expecting, but with a lot of focus and determination it is an excellent addition to my personal coaching qualifications.

I will now be part of the IRONMAN Certified Coach match program which will help me to reach out to  clients further a field.

Course Modules included

  • IRONMAN History & Coaching Philosophy.
  • Principles of Exercise Science.
  • The Science of Swimming.
  • The Science of Cycling.
  • The Science of Running.
  • Sport Nutrition.
  • Strength & Conditioning.
  • Developing Training Plans.
  • The Art of Coaching.
  • Event Preparation & Execution.
  • Coaching Business.

I am also a active member of the Shrewsbury Triahtlon Club (SYTri) Coaching Team, so this addition to my coaching qualifications will benefit current and future members of the club. I can normally be found at the clubs Run Track Session on a Thursday evening (18:00) at SCAT London Road, Shrewsbury, if you fancy a chat about your coaching requirements or complete the contact form.