Last winter I was on a long base training ride, and I felt generally awful. At first, I blamed my much higher-than-normal heart rate on fatigue, or perhaps a dying HRM battery. But after a couple of days off the bike, and more closely monitoring my heart rate in general, I decided something still didn’t seem right.
A visit to my primary car doctor and a quick EKG resulted in a speedy referral to a cardiologist. Long story short, the diagnosis was Persistent Lone (or Idiopathic) Atrial Fibrillation or AFib. “Persistent” meaning my heart was in a state of AFib all the time; “Lone” or “Idiopathic” meaning that (with no commonly recognized risk factors) the cause was unknown.
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition characterized by an irregular and often rapid heart rate. It’s not lethal on its own, but it can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. The American Heart Association estimates that at least 2.7 million Americans are living with the disorder. Traditional risk factors include what most would expect for heart conditions: congenital defects, age, heart disease, excessive stress, and stimulant use. However recent evidence suggests that long-term endurance sports training might also be a significant factor.
I am not a doctor, and my intent is not to contribute to the debate around AFib and endurance athletes. The purpose of this article is instead to raise awareness, and to provide some lessons learned through my firsthand experience with AFib, in hopes of helping athletes better-identify and deal with the issue if it arises.
Know What’s Normal
In my case, the doctors cited my quick identification of a potential problem (and seeking of medical attention) as critical factors in what would ultimately be a successful correction procedure. Like many athletes, I have a good understanding of what I “should“ be seeing with my heart rate relative to power and perceived effort, and was able to quickly identify that something was wrong. For performance, monitoring HR is becoming less prevalent, but there is a lot of value in consistently using it for insights into your overall health. (Here’s how to get started with a Heart Rate Monitor).
For cyclists and triathletes, training with power is likely the most effective way to maximize results. Why? Power meters and the data they provide remove a lot of the guesswork from training by supplying precise, accurate information for accurate measurement of training intensity and load, unlike heart rate training or rate of perceived exertion (RPE) training.
Even when athletes recognize that power training offers significant benefits, many of them are apprehensive about jumping into the power-training game because they’ve heard it’s complex and they aren’t sure they have the knowledge or technical skills to get the most out of it.
I’d like to make it easier. Here are a few simple steps to get started with power training and how to better understand the entire power training process.
Step 1: Ride with power
The first thing your should do after you buy a new power meter is set up your head unit with some key metrics to track. I suggest setting power, heart rate, and speed to display on the screen.
And then just ride, observe and record. That’s all you should do for two to four weeks. Don’t change anything about your riding or training yet. Simply observe and begin to quantify your efforts.
Be sure to record all your workouts, no matter how small. It’s pretty simple to automate the recording and uploading process, and these records will become your data diary and will be highly useful in the future.
This first step gives you time to get a feeling for the relationship between power and effort, along with a basic understanding of the quantification of training. If you went up a short hill, did it feel hard? Your power meter now gives a number for “hard.” Hard for you might be 450 watts or 600 watts. Soft pedal down the other side of the hill and watch how many watts that generates.
Want to try bike racing and don’t know where to start? Already racing and want to learn how to be more efficient? Want to hang out with some really cool women and have fun on bikes? Then this clinic is for you!
USA Cycling certified coaches, Alison Powers (2014 National Criterium Champion), Patricia Schwager and Jennifer Sharp (Current Colorado State Criterium Champion) will teach you what you need to know to race your first criterium. Specifically, we’ll be discussing cornering in a
group, sprinting, race tactics, safety and have a couple of practice races.
It’s that time of the year when friends and families get together in love and fellowship to enjoy the holiday season and to usher in the New Year. It’s a wonderful time that, unfortunately, can wreak havoc on our eating habits. But don’t despair! Here are five quick and simple tips for navigating the nutritional minefields we inevitably encounter around the holidays:
1. Don’t change your normal diet, especially if you already have good eating habits.
For example, don’t skip a meal in anticipation of a big holiday spread. This is a very common mistake. Eat your normal meals at their normal times and you will find that you eat less at the “event” meals (e.g., Thanksgiving dinner).
2. Eat prior to arriving at a family or social gathering.
With the large amounts of food available at most holiday gatherings, it is very easy to overeat. One way to minimize this is to eat a small meal prior to arriving at the event. Because if you are not hungry, you will be far less likely to overeat…
Winter is nearly upon us and as the air temperature drops, you can bet your bottom dollar that an increased number of us will be missing training sessions with coughs, colds, sore throats and the flu.
Understanding what you can do to minimize the chances of getting sick is a good idea so that you can avoid interruptions to your TrainingPeaks training plan over the off-season (or when your heavy training begins again).
But, just how susceptible are athletes to getting sick?
There’s a long standing and widely held (though not fully proven) belief that exercising has a “J” shaped effect on the immune system and, by extension, on your susceptibility to picking up infections and illnesses.
The graph below (taken from a 1994 paper on the subject) illustrates this idea nicely:
Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are hot topics in many endurance athlete’s circles. Iron, specifically low levels of it, is often linked to feelings of exhaustion and poor recovery.
Iron is a critical nutritional component for all individuals, but is particularly important for athletes, due to the important role it plays in oxygen transportation to working muscles.
Let’s take a closer look at what Iron deficiency and anemia are and how endurance athletes can take charge of their iron consumption to ensure healthy levels during training.
What are Iron and Anemia?
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the protein that carries both oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. It also plays a key role in the transfer of oxygen in muscle cells. ATP, the body’s primary energy source, is also produced with the help of iron.
It’s an essential mineral, as our bodies don’t produce it naturally, so we have to get it from diet or supplementation to ensure we meet our nutritional needs. It’s clear to see how critical iron is for the endurance athlete, but what does it mean to have an iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional disorder in both athletes and non-athletes1. Anemia is very simply a lack of iron in the blood. Furthermore, it means that hemoglobin levels are low…
The tape has long been broken, the champagne sprayed and champions crowned at the 2017 IRONMAN® World Championship, but for the first time we have in-depth access to data that paints a new and dynamic picture of the day.
What we saw on the live broadcast on October 14 didn’t fully capture the strategies and pacing that played out on course on a day that resulted in a new course record and several new names making the podium for the first time in both the women’s and men’s professional races.
With the help of the Quarq and their Quarq Qollector, IRONMAN’s® Live Pro Race Tracking Partner, we were able to analyze real-time data, which we shared for various athletes live during the race through the IRONMAN® Live Blog. Additionally, we were able to study comparative data after the race, giving us valuable new insight into the pacing throughout the bike and the run for the top athletes in both the women’s and men’s races.
We recently wrote about the power and pacing of Lionel Sanders during this year’s race. The Canadian pro cracked a major piece of the Kona puzzle on his third attempt by finishing second after being passed by eventual champion Patrick Lange at mile 23. Using the Qollector, we can put his effort into the larger comparative context and see how the fast pace of the bike played out favorably for strong runner Lange, but cost other top pros like Sebastian Kienle the top spot.
On the women’s side, the data shows that despite being the heavy pre-race favorite, it was no cake walk for Daniela Ryf on her way to her third straight victory. We can see that she was fighting hard to stave off the hard-charging dark horse Lucy Charles for much of the bike and the run.
Before we dive into the data for the men’s and women’s pro races, take a look at the interactive tool Quarq has graciously set up for everyone to use to compare pro athletes’ paces throughout the race….
Over the years I’ve seen many athletes not achieve their full potential in races because they failed to execute a proper IRONMAN taper.
I’ve witnessed triathletes who have not backed off enough and were tired and flat at the event; I’ve also seen those who have dialed back their training far too much, and dulled the fitness that they had taken months to hone.
Follow my prescription as we countdown to race day in Kona, and you’ll arrive at the starting line with that perfect mix of expansive aerobic capability and sharp, high-intensity output that will propel you to an optimal performance.
While this is written with the IRONMAN World Championship in mind, it will work for any IRONMAN you may be racing. Tapering is an art form, so above all else, listen to your own body.
22 Days to 10 Days Before The Race
1. Maintain your schedule. Maintain the same number of training days per week and follow your typical schedule. If you normally run on Tuesdays, then continue to do it! Don’t alter things.
2. Long training days. Your training is nearly complete, and so you should resist “cramming in” your final long workouts too close to the event. If you’re planning a long run, schedule your last one 18 to 22 days before the race. Your last long bike should take place 14 to 21 days from race day. Your long swim: Nine to 10 days prior.
3. Maintain “race-like intensity,” but reduce the segment length of repeats. There is a great physiological return on reducing your sub-threshold and threshold training to between 90 second to 3.5 minutes per repeat.
These shorter segments—even with complete recovery—will not leave you whipped after the workout. By resisting the temptation to lengthen the repeats, you’ll maintain the adaptive stress of the session and enhance your day-to-day recovery.
An example set is: 3 x 3.5 min + 3 x 90 sec + 3 x 2.5 min + 3 x 90 sec. The rest interval between repeats should be long enough to maintain the desired intensity throughout the workout.
4. Notice improved performance. One characteristic of a proper taper is that you’ll begin to feel a bit fresher during and after the workouts, while experiencing a 2 percent to 5 percent increase in performance (either by comparing tangible measurements or Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)).
For example, all of your training sessions might feel easier with a concurrent increase in speed, watts or simultaneous reduction in heart rate.
Simply, you should begin to feel like you’re flowing at less effort. This sensation is a positive affirmation that your training has been effective and you’re on track for a good race.
Additionally, niggling stiffness or sore spots should subside. Acute soreness means you need to rest more or consider a combination of modalities to expedite the recovery (see #8 below).
5. Reduce overall training time. A reduction in total training time should start during this taper block. Looking at weekly training volumes, my suggestion is not to reduce the volumes by a fixed percentage.
The problem with this math is that the athletes who train 11 to 14 hours per week (i.e. most age-group athletes with full-time jobs and families) cannot compare themselves with those training 30-35 hours weekly (i.e. professional athletes and elite age group athletes).
The following are my percentage reductions based on your hours per week:
For those logging 11 to 14 hours per week, reduce your volume by about 15 percent.
If you’re typically training 15 to 22 hours, bring the volume down by 20 percent.
If you’re at 23 to 30 hours, then reduce that by 25 percent.
If you’re training more than 30 hours, then reduce that by 30 percent.
These percentage reductions should be reflected in all disciplines, and particularly in your run workouts. The eccentric load of the run slows the recovery process. Also be sure to look at your personal strengths and weaknesses and reduce accordingly.
6. Maintain your mobility, stretching and strength training. Eliminate the heavy lifts or explosive plyometrics, and reduce the weight and number of reps, but maintain your typical routine.
Take the exercises to fatigue but never to failure. If you’re on a minimal strength program, continue at least twice per week emphasizing core, gluteal, rotator and back strength, plus maintain joint mobility with foam rolling and stretching.
7. Watch your weight. Your goal is to neither gain weight nor hit your optimum race weight during this time block.
Eat nutrient-dense foods with healthy fats and protein at all meals. Cut back on simple carbohydrates.
Don’t alter your macronutrient balance. This is not the time to adjust your diet strategy! If you’re madly driven to lose weight during the final 10 days, then keep this weight loss to no more 0.5 percent of your body weight.
8. Continue your bodywork. Maintain treatments with your physical therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist or yoga routines. These are all good, but don’t try something new during this period!
Nine Days and Counting to Race Day….
Click here to read the rest of the article, including final taper and race day nerves strategy
Held at the University of Colorado and co-sponsored by USA Cycling and USA Triathlon, this 3-day event focused on the business and science of coaching endurance athletes. Keynote speakers included six-time Ironman champion Dave Scott, USAT running coach Bobby McGee and Dirk Friel from TrainingPeaks.
Participants had the opportunity to listen to talks in sports physiology and coaching business. In this year’s format (2016 was the inaugural summit) there were 20-minute business roundtables, where coaches could break into small groups to hear quick presentations on business law, running a multi-coach business, enhancing your social media presence and using TrainingPeaks’ coach referral program.
Networking opportunities were built into the design throughout. Roka hosted a swim workout and Dave Scott a run workout, both on Friday morning before sessions began. Retul hosted a pre-conference networking session at their new facility on Airport Road in Boulder.
Coach Raeleigh Harris said, “The summit showcased the best coaching methodology, technology and leadership available to us today, all in one location. Total immersion into this setting was invaluable moving forward in development of Coaching services and supporting platforms.”
Emceed by Barry Siff, President of USA Triathlon, this even earned coaches 12 CEUs. Training Peaks plans to bring this event back to Boulder in 2018.