Ironman Boulder is almost HERE! So if this is your first 140.6-mile race or if you are doing Boulder for the first time, this is a MUST-LISTEN podcast Chaskis founder and Dig Deep Podcast host, Hugo Mendez, invited experienced Boulder-based coach Eric Kenney to share his knowledge and advice on how to have a great Ironman Boulder! Eric has great advice on several key topics like pacing yourself, especially if you are racing at altitude, nutrition, the course, logistics, how to have a smart bike ride and solid marathon, key sections of the race, logistics and more.
“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Triathlon can be an intimidating sport. The idea of training for and completing three sport disciplines for one race can feel overwhelming for many people. Even the most experienced triathletes can let their worries get in the way of optimum performance. With proper training, support and mental preparation, those worries can fade away as you swim, bike and run your way to that finish line. It’s an amazing experience and one of great accomplishment. For athletes new to the sport or ones considering doing a triathlon for the first time, the importance of mental training is often overshadowed by the emphasis put on physical training in swimming, cycling and running. But, the physical and the mental must work together for the best outcome.
As an ambassador for USA Triathlon, when I go out into the community to encourage athletes to try a triathlon, I often hear these doubts: “I’m not athletic enough. I don’t think I can do that.”, “I am not a good swimmer. I’m too scared to try this.”, “I don’t have the right gear. My bike is too old.” But, guess what? As an athlete myself and a coach, I hear the experienced triathletes express worries as well. Every single triathlete in the world has had doubts about what he or she can accomplish. I completely understand this feeling. Testing ourselves in new ways is scary. Fear of failure is real. I said a lot of these same things to myself right before my first triathlon, “What the heck am I doing?? I can’t do this.” But, unless we take that first step towards a new challenge we can never know how that accomplishment feels. As athletes, we train our bodies to be strong but we often underestimate the need to train our minds to be resilient and think positively. We need to teach ourselves to believe in our strengths and follow that road to success.
As I’ve discussed before, the swimming discipline is one of the most mechanically dependent for any triathlete.
This isn’t to say that running and cycling don’t have their own mechanics and gains from improved bio-mechanical efficiency, of course. But for the beginner triathlete — who might be new to swimming — getting into the pool and attempting your first workout can sometimes seem like one of the most challenging workouts they’ve yet done.
It’s not uncommon to see someone in the lane next you making things “look easy.” Almost effortless.
Don’t worry, time and determination will get you there.
There are a lot of basic training methodologies to keep in mind and incorporate into your training to help you get your swim training moving in the right direction.
But even with the best laid plans and quality swim programming at the ready, it’s not uncommon to feel absolutely beat after a very short period of time in the water. With that said, what are the primary causes of the muscle fatigue that is almost assuredly experienced by everyone as they begin their swim training on the way to their first triathlon?
Let’s start with your breathing.
You need to have a complete air / gas exchange while you swim. What do I mean by that? I mean that after you inhale during your stroke recovery, you need to exhale when your face is in the water (through your nose, mouth, or both).
This is critically important, as without a complete air exchange, carbon dioxide (waste product from muscular exertion) begins to build up and your muscles begin to become deprived of oxygen (the primary fuel for creating energy during aerobic exercise). When this happens, muscular fatigue begins to set in.
This isn’t to say that by doing a good exhalation when your face is in the water you’re going to get ‘all’ of the waste product out of your system. But it alleviates the most common mistake made among new swimmers or triathletes: holding your breath between inhalations.
When you hold your breath between inhalations, as small and fractional as it may seem, his incremental build-up of carbon dioxide is called “stacking.” And it doesn’t take long for this build-up to begin to cause fatigue.
Now, there are a couple schools of thought on the exhalation portion of the swim. To keep it simple, just give a steady exhale when your face is in the water so that when you turn to breathe, your exhale is finishing and all you’re doing is inhaling.
It’s quite common to work with an athlete who says that they swim 25 or 50 meters and “feel exhausted.” By incorporating this breathing change, it’s almost a guarantee that the huffing and puffing they experienced after 50 meters of swimming will disappear.
Whether you have already hired a coach or are thinking of hiring a coach there are certain steps you can take to foster the Coach/Athlete relationship. Each coach has their own style and philosophies, but there are certain expectations an athlete should have when they hire a coach. Setting your expectations upfront is crucial in establishing a mutually beneficial working relationship.
At minimum you should ask the following questions during the selection process. How and when will my training plan be provided? What type of review process do you have in place? If I need to ask you a question what is the best manner in which to reach you? What are your pre and post race notification requirements? A good coach will explain their processes up front but this doesn’t exclude you from communicating your preferences. Following are some suggestions on how to make the most of your relationship with your coach.
Goals: Establish goals and benchmark sessions to measure progress along the way. This is a “given” and I won’t spend a lot of time on goal establishment. Discuss your race plan and ask for your coaches input. Ask what tests and criteria they use to establish fitness gains. At the end of the season how will you and your coach evaluate progress and success?
Timely and Open Communication: The cooperation of both the athlete and coach is required if there is to be effective communication.
Coaches should provide workouts that are clear and concise. What are the duration, intensity, terrain and desired outcomes of your workout? What phase of training are you in and what purpose does your current block of training play in the annual training plan? How will you receive your workouts and when can you expect to have your plan for the upcoming week or months of training?
The athlete can foster the relationship by providing meaningful feedback on how they absorbed the workouts provided. In short, fill out your training logs in a timely manner and be thorough. “Completed” “done” “that was hard” tells your coach very little. Provide information on how you felt before, during and after the session. How did your body feel during the main set of the workout? What was your wattage? Heart rate? Pacing? What successes or obstacles did you encounter during the session? What was your mental state of mind? How did you sleep the night before? How has your diet been? The more relevant information you share, the easier it becomes for your coach to develop a plan with your fitness gains in mind.
The first step towards quality communication with your coach is to realize that you play a key role in fostering the relationship. Many times, important factors which influence performance are left unmentioned. Remember this is a business relationship. Coaches don’t want to play counselor. Share only information that impacts your training but don’t expect your coach to give you advice outside of the sport.
Trust: When you make the decision to hire a coach you are putting your faith in their hands. There are different methods which lead to the finish line of any race. If you hire someone to drive “your bus” for the season then let them drive the bus. The internet, training partners and magazine articles can all provide distractions and plant a seed of doubt in your mind. Don’t give up on your training program before giving it adequate time to be evaluated. Don’t be afraid to ask your coach about different philosophies and methods. A good coach will be fair, firm and honest with you.
What to Expect from your Coach: Realize that not every coach has all the answers. If they don’t have an answer then they should provide assistance on where to find the answer. Your coach has a life and don’t expect them to be available 365/24/7. Respect your coach’s time and ask them when it is acceptable to call for questions and what a reasonable response time should be when you contact them.
What can you do to foster the relationship? If you don’t know something then ask? Coaches love to teach about the sport and like when athletes become life long students. Work hard and be consistent day in and day out. Coaches will work harder for athletes who work hard to achieve the goals established up front.
The dept of the coach/athlete relationship is formed when both parties have pre established goals and expectations and two way communication is established. Make the most of your coach by taking an active role.
The word ‘diet’ has many different contexts. For example:
restriction: “I can’t eat XYZ foods.”
a type of pattern or cuisine: “I eat in line with the Mediterranean diet.”
fad/trend: “I’m starting the Grapefruit Diet to detox!”
clinical prescription: “My doctor prescribed an autoimmune diet for my thyroid condition.”
Aside from the new year hubbub that is filled with trendy diet pitches and 21-day diet challenges, have you wondered whether it is time to change up your dietary pattern to support your health and performance goals? Let me provide a few considerations to help you self-assess a bit further.
What is the “issue” you are trying to improve or solve?
Weight loss is on the minds of many athletes this time of the year in advance of big races and events planned for 2019. If this is you, then I recommend taking some time to reflect on where you’ve been in your diet hopping experience and where you are now with your food relationship. Often times, athletes jump to the latest and greatest diet fad without pondering their past or how food fits into their life currently.
It may be surprising to some, but much of the research shows that there are many kinds of diets that can work to promote weight loss. The keys are finding what is sustainable for you (to avoid the yo-yo trend of loss-gain-loss-gain-rinse-repeat), what is safe and optimal (in terms of supporting your needs as an athlete), and what your habits and behaviors are around food that need to be modified (I call this the “nitty gritty that no one likes to address”).
If weight loss is not your primary goal, perhaps it is another set of signs and symptoms that you are experiencing. For example:
poor exercise performance (feeling flat, can’t hit intensities, fade quickly into an aerobic session)
energy lulls, poor concentration during everyday living
gut issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea
sugar and/or caffeine cravings
Maybe you just intuitively know that it is time for a change – you are now a masters athlete, there are midlife hormonal changes, or quite frankly, your diet is pretty subpar.
What do you know objectively about your signs and symptoms? For example, do you have recent athlete-specific blood work to reveal any deficiencies? Have you changed your nutrition relatively recently that could be a contributing (negative) factor? Have you had a professional assessment from a Sport Dietitian to piece apart all of the “inputs”?
As you can hopefully see, there are potentially many reasons to move forward with a change in your nutrition. Similarly, there are many layers that makes the decision process as to which kind of dietary pattern a more complicated process than simply mimicking what a friend or training partner does. It takes some time and effort to think through where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go… for both health and performance as they go hand in hand.
As winter approaches in the Northern Hemisphere some athletes will spend most of their cycling time indoors. Often indoor cycling workouts turn into hammer sessions where athletes push themselves so hard that they forget about the importance of technique and form.
Here are my top 5 tips to ensure that you’re making the most of your indoor sessions.