This Summer, Remember to Drink Up! by Playtri Coach Amari

It’s that time again… the heat and humidity are here to play. Let’s take a look at some of the what, why, when, and how’s of optimal hydration. (For the purpose of this article, please note, I am solely focusing on water consumption. This does not include electrolyte or salt/sodium consumption.)

 

WHAT- Hydration

Drinking water sounds simple, right? Wrong! How many times do you get busy at work, around the house, or doing errands and the logistics of your life and you look up and realize, “Crap, I haven’t had any water all day long!” Take that and double the distraction when we are out there training and racing. We forget the necessity of drinking water. Our bodies are made up of 60% water. From the moment we step out the door for a training session or race, we begin losing water. It is vital that you stay on top of your body and its need for water.

 

WHY-

Did you know a simple 2% drop in weight can result in up to 20% performance potential of the day??? In other words, when we lose focus and neglect our hydration we stand in our own way, hindering our performance and recovery.

 

WHEN-

How often should I drink water OUTSIDE of training and racing??? I always recommend clients to NOT force water down their pipes. Many times as clients begin to take note and ‘read’ their bodies better, they find that drinking 6-8oz every hour that they are awake is actually easy to do. More importantly it is what their bodies need for optimal health, daily concentration, satiety, and recovery.

 

How often should I drink water DURING training and racing??? This all depends on the individual’s needs. A simple rule of thumb is every 12-15 minutes on the bike and roughly every mile on the run.

 

HOW-

Carrying water can be tricky in training, but thanks to the array of products out there, we have no excuses.

On the bike, I always recommend an aero bottle, regardless of whether you are doing short or long course. Also consider adding 1-2 bottles extra on the frame but NOT behind the saddle. 

(In a previous article I elaborated on this concept) Consider doing a plank hold for 2min. Now sit up and reach behind you. You’re a bit a tight, right? Now think about being in aero formany minutes or hours, pumping those legs, maintaining focus on the road, and balancing the bike… Do you really want to sit up, slow down, balance the bike, watch the road, and try to reach around to grab that bottle? Is it really worth it? To me, no, but again it is always the athletes choice. Back to the bottle placement that I recommend. The aero bottle literally stares back at you the entire ride. She cannot be ignored, which is a constant reminder to drink, and drink often. During training the bottles on your bike can be used to easily refill your aero bottle as it runs low.

 

On the run, consider doing your run on a multiple loop course, carrying a hand held water bottle, or utilizing a hydration belt. This way you are able to drink consistently throughout the session. Both the hand held water bottles and hydration belts are now designed in many shapes and sizes that easily fit to your body and needs.

 

Now in racing however, we are many times ‘gifted’ with awesome race directors and volunteers to ensure we are well hydrated. 

On the bike, I always remind clients that for every 16oz bottle of fluid you have on your bike, you are adding roughly another pound (might I remind you that many of you paid to have your bike as light as possible, so don’t waste it!) In most long courses (70.3 and 140.6’s) aid stations are set up every 10-15 miles (always check the course maps for aid station details).  I always recommend a client simply fill their aero bottle on the bike and that’s it. Now there are exceptions, if you are anticipating taking longer than 45min-1hr and/or the heat and humidity are soaring that day, then yes, be on the safe side, carry that extra bottle on your frame to ensure you are properly hydrated.

 

As for the run, again how much do we love those volunteers for getting their happy butts out of bed to ensure we are having a great race?!? Aid stations are typically placed every 1 to 1.5 miles apart (again, check with the course maps or race director if you have questions about where and how many will be on the course). Regardless, use them!!! Normally these cups have about 2-4oz in each. If you need more or don’t want to hassle with the traffic of the station, carry your hand held bottle or put on that hydration belt and drink to your heart’s content (make sure you practice this in training as you want to ensure you are comfortable and accustomed to how it moves with you).

 

WHAT CAN I DO TO DIAL IN MY SPECIFIC HYDRATION NEEDS?

At Playtri our goal is to dial in a client’s hydration, sodium, and caloric needs in and out of training and racing. We can do this a couple ways:

A.   Resting Metabolic Rate & Caloric Testing

For more details about these services and testing specifics, please email info@playtri.com.

B.   Pre and Post Training/Racing Weight with detailed feedback of how often and how much was consumed on the bike and/or run.

Here is an easy way for you to start taking a more detailed look at your hydration needs.

1.      Take your weight, preferably naked, prior to leaving the house for your ride or run.

2.      Make sure you pay attention to not just simply how much you are drinking during the workout, but also when you start and how often you are drinking.

My suggestion is to start drinking from the very beginning of the workout and roughly every 12-15 minutes.

3.      Upon returning, weigh again to determine a loss or gain.

4.      If you have lost more than 2%, don't make the common mistake of simply adding more salt or calories. Rather determine if you kept to a regular schedule of drinking water and how much at each interval. If you were able to maintain this rhythm and still lost more than 2%, consider adding 2-4oz more at each 12-15 minute marker the next time you train. This is an easy 10-16 more ounces of water.

5.      The next time you head out, do the exact same thing. Get your starting weight, commit to a drinking schedule and amount per interval, and step on the scale upon returning.

Again, this is just one quick and easy way to dial in your hydration needs. If you need further direction or detail, please contact one of our Playtri coaches at info@playtri.com to help determine your training and racing needs.

Here’s to staying hydrated and enjoying a great summer of training and racing!

 

 


Finding the Balance in Your Freestyle Swim

Coach Morgan Hoffman

Do you love to swim with a pull buoy? Me too.

Those of us who love the pull buoy (I’m talking to you, runners and cyclists) – we love it because it puts a band-aid on a massive crack in our freestyle foundation: balance. The pull buoy allows us to cruise along at quicker speeds, without having to worry about our pesky bottom half sinking down below the surface. Unfortunately, pull buoys are not allowed in triathlon swims (unless you count wetsuits), so as triathletes we need to take steps to develop a strong foundation for our freestyle swim.

By the way – wetsuits and pull buoys may help, but you’ll be a happier, more efficient swimmer either way if you make the effort to address this keep component

What do I mean by balance?

Good balance in freestyle means the body being parallel at the surface of the water throughout the freestyle stroke, with head, glutes and feet breaking the surface. Because water has 800 times the resistance of air, it is REALLY IMPORTANT that we present the smallest front surface area possible to the water while swimming, and keep as much of our body out/on top of the water. If you thought good aerodynamic positioning in your tri bike fit was important… this is (literally) 800 times more important (at least for your swim). It is also significantly more important than your catch/pull/high elbow/fill-in-the-blank-with-your-stroke-term-of-choice because every extra millimeter of front surface area you are presenting to the water is making that perfect stroke exponentially less effective.

How do swimmers achieve/maintain balance?

·        Genetics/body type

·        Small, fast, consistent flutter kick

·        Core engagement

·        Quick/efficient breaths

·        Forward momentum

Let’s break these down.

Genetics/Body Type

Some people just float better. End of story. I do a test with all of my new youth athletes where they have to float face-down in the pool until they need a breath. 90% of them have legs sinking to the bottom before they need a breath. The other 10% don’t. If you are a ten-percenter… congratulations. You still need to kick, but your life will be just a bit easier.

Flutter Kick

The perfect flutter kick is an art, but there are a few components that anyone can work to develop before serious fine-tuning is needed:

·        Kick from the hips: We teach this to athletes by telling them to keep their legs straight while kicking. This way they don’t initiate the kick from the knee, which is a very weak joint, and instead utilize the powerhouse muscles surrounding the pelvis, including the glutes, hamstrings, quads and hip flexors.

·        Keep kicks small and fast: When kicking, pretend like someone has put a 12 inch diameter ring around your ankles, and you cannot kick outside of it. Many swim brands make leg bands (which are essentially giant, stiff rubber bands) that you can wear while kicking and swimming to force a smaller kick (they also make great kick resistance training tools).

·        Heels and toes: Focus on having just the heels and toes of the foot break the surface on every kick. The result should be a small, motor-boat-engine-like splash.

We recommend doing kick sets with a swim snorkel so you can practice kicking with correct body position, versus just a kickboard where the body is in a position unnatural to freestyle swimming. Please note – the three above guidelines are NOT magic tricks that make your kick suddenly both strong and fast. As with any physical skill, a strong and effective kick takes time and consistency to develop.

Core Engagement

Core engagement simply means utilizing the torso muscles to maintain your body position in the water, through body alignment, stiffness and improved momentum.

·        Body alignment: As with most things, a proper spinal alignment is ideal while swimming, meaning the head is neutrally positioned (this means eyes looking down while swimming), and hips and shoulders are on a level plane. This can be achieved by practicing light abdominal and glute engagement in your drills and swimming.

·        Body stiffness: Most of us know that the real reason carbon fiber bikes are preferred over aluminum bikes is not necessarily weight, but the stiffness of the material, and its ability to translate power into forward motion. Engaging the core to make a strong/stiff center does the same for your swim. Think of your body as an elastic band, and imagine someone pulling it long and tight, taking any slack out of the band – this is what we should practice in our freestyle swimming.

·        Improved momentum: Utilizing the core for effective and well-timed rotation of the hips and shoulders actually improves the power and effectiveness of the catch, creating greater momentum, which, as we will explore next, also creates greater balance.

Obviously all of the above will be easier for athletes who have developed a strong and dynamic core structure through effective strength training and mobility work, so don’t neglect those two key components of your foundational training!

Quick Breaths

We always say at Playtri that the number one thing that messes up the freestyle stroke is the breath. Strokes lose their rhythm, neck and shoulder muscles tighten, heads lift, legs drop, kicks get big to compensate, etc. Learning to take a quick and efficient breath means less interruption to your technique, and it starts with a very basic concept – making sure to release the breath in a controlled manner when your face is in the water, keeping the face relaxed while doing so, and then immediately before the face breaches the surface to inhale, gently pushing out the remaining air to prepare yourself for the next breath. Once your exhale and inhale are timed well, you can focus on maintaining a low head position during the breath, turning the head to the side without any frontal lift, looking back towards the arm pit and keeping one goggle underwater as you utilize the small trough created around your mouth by the wake of your head moving through the water. The quicker and more efficient your breath becomes, the less it will interrupt your balance and momentum.

Forward Momentum

Speaking of momentum, I’ll be honest – momentum is the final piece I look at when I’m working to create balance for an athlete. However, an easy way to understand its value to is to do a 50y freestyle once with fins and once without fins. The speed the fins provide will make a noticeable difference in your ability to “stay on top” of the water with greater ease. The tricky thing with momentum is that it is hard to build without having that foundation of kick and core engagement developed. So the main place I utilize momentum as a balance-builder is in teaching and mastering drills with the use of fins, so the athlete can more easily achieve the objective, and more importantly the feel of being on top of the water. Then he or she can work to achieve that same balance without the fins.

Momentum becomes more important in open water swims because of the potential for losing it. Buoy turns, collisions with other swimmers, etc. can all result in a loss of momentum. Continuous swimming regardless of the situation, and being able to quickly regain momentum following a slow-down, are essential skills in the open water.

Finding Your Balance

As with everything, developing balance in the water takes time and intentional work. Pick one of the above concepts to focus on, and work on it almost exclusively for at least a month – until you don’t have to think about it constantly. Then select another, and another, and so on. Great swimmers take years to perfect their art, so don’t expect elite times and comfort in the water to come over the course of a year or two. If there was a magic formula out there, everyone would already be using it. Be patient, consistent, and intentional, and progress will come.


Metabolic Testing and the Bonk

Metabolic Testing and the Bonk

By Coach Morgan Hoffman

As many of you know, I spend a few hours every day getting to interact with retail customers at the Playtri McKinney Store. It’s a great experience for me as a coach, because I get to hear and consider all the questions that athletes have regarding the sport. It often leads to quality conversations that hopefully have a positive impact on the athlete’s training and racing.

A common question prior to every big Ironman race is “I’m trying to figure out my nutrition – what should I do/use?” I always hope athletes are asking for a race months down the line, but more often than not, they’re asking for a race in a week or two.

Click Here to read the whole article


Electrolytes and Summer Training (and Racing)

Electrolytes and Summer Training (and Racing)

By Coach Morgan Hoffman

 

Summer is here, and so is the double-trouble combo of Texas heat and humidity – athletes who have been enjoying a relatively cool spring will now need to adjust hydration plans to account for these two aspects of summer training in the south, or suffer the consequences.

Before we discuss how to adjust your hydration plan, let’s talk about the effects of heat on performance, and why we need to adjust.

 

Why is it so much harder to perform in the heat?

What exactly is happening when your body is forced to deal with increased heat, and why does 170w on the bike feel like 200w when the temperature shoots up? To answer this question, we must first understand that the human body is designed to operate efficiently at a temperature of around 97.5-99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above this, and an individual becomes subject to mild to severe physiological compromises/failures (I won’t go down this wormhole today, but there is plenty of literature available on the subject).

The body cools itself by creating sweat, which cools the body as it evaporates (if you’ve ever had that post-race chill on a cool day when your body is covered and sweat and suddenly the 60 degrees that felt GREAT during the race suddenly feels like an arctic blast – that’s what’s happening). To create sweat, more blood is sent to the skin, and water and electrolytes are released. Because the body is sending more blood to the surface, less blood is available to send to muscles (including the stomach, meaning in-race nutrition becomes harder to digest and absorb), and because water and electrolytes (plasma) are being released, blood volume is decreasing and blood is becoming thicker, again making it harder to get blood to the muscles. Since there is less blood volume to send to the body in these circumstances, the heart starts working harder (beating faster) to send blood more quickly. Thus the reason why you can produce 200w in 60 degrees at the same heart rate that only allows you to produce 170w at 90 degrees.

Today will not be focused on adapting your race/training strategy to address heat (though we can have that conversation in the future), but on adapting your hydration strategy to ensure that your body is able to properly cool itself, and maintaining blood volume even as more blood is being pumped to the skin versus the muscles.

 

Why does humidity seem to make workouts worse?

Remember that our bodies cool themselves via the evaporation of sweat – humid conditions prevent the evaporation of sweat due to the increase of liquid in the air. That means our body can struggle to cool itself at 70 degrees and 100% humidity in the same way as at it does at 90 degrees and 50% humidity. Humidity means the body will work harder to cool itself, and athletes and coaches must take this into consideration when devising a hydration plan.

 

What is an electrolyte?

Electrolytes are inorganic micronutrients responsible for everything from regulating bodily temperature to activating neural communication in the body. They are not actually a source of energy, but they facilitate a wide range of bodily functions necessary to life and athletic performance.

As we mentioned above, sweat doesn’t just release water from the body, it also releases electrolytes, particularly sodium. Sodium is a key electrolyte because it actually helps our body process and retain water, meaning more water is put to good use, versus just flushing through the system. In other words, hydration means a balanced intake of water and sodium, not just water. Excessive water consumed without accompanying sodium (particularly during prolonged exercise in warm/humid conditions) will not necessarily go towards necessary functions, and can even cause hyponatremia (the condition of having low blood sodium, which can cause swelling in the brain).

Other electrolytes include chloride (as in sodium chloride, or table salt), potassium (of particular interest to endurance athletes due to its role in facilitating neural communication) and magnesium. It is important for athletes to note that the primary electrolyte lost via sweat is sodium. Other electrolytes are generally consumed throughout the day via food sources, and do not need to be heavily replaced during exercises, though many sodium replacements now often include a mix of other electrolytes as well. However, as athletes, our focus should be replacing sodium, and at Playtri we build our plans around this electrolyte.

 

How do I know how much sodium to take?

We have a fairly simple test for determining hydration at Playtri. Like any good science experiment, it requires the collection and analysis of data – the good news is, very little scientific knowledge is required to make adjustments and achieve results.

For every long workout (more than 1 hour for runs, more than 2 hours for bikes) that our athletes do, they are required to fill out a nutrition report – this report includes:

·        Date/time of workout

·        Type of workout and length

·        Temperature at time of workout

·        Humidity at time of workout

·        Pre-workout meal/hydration (anything 2 or less hours prior to starting the workout)

·        Weight prior to workout (it is best to weight without clothing on)

·        Calories consumed during workout and frequency of ingestion (include specifically the number of calories from carbohydrates)

·        Ounces of water consumed during the workout and frequency of drinking

·        Milligrams of sodium consumed during the workout and frequency of ingestion

·        Weight immediately after finishing the workout (again, best to weight without clothing)

Look at the weight before and after the workout – if you didn’t lose any weight, then you aren’t dehydrated, and whatever you ate and drank was a good formula for your training/racing in those particular conditions. If you did lose weight, it means that either water or electrolytes (or both) need to be increased in the next workout (assuming conditions are similar). Always be aware that the hotter/more humid the conditions, the more water and sodium you will need to take.

If you aren’t sure where to start, I recommend trying 10-20 oz of water and 100mg of sodium per hour in a workout, then building from there. Heavier athletes will need more, lighter athletes will need less – remember if your body starts telling you something isn’t working, you need to listen. If you are dying of thirst utilizing the above recommendation in a workout, go ahead and drink more, and/or take more sodium. If you’re feeling distinctly sloshy, you can back off on hydration.

 

How often should I take in electrolytes?

We recommend taking electrolytes at least once an hour, if not more often. Small doses of macronutrients and micronutrients tend to be absorbed more efficiently. The same goes for water and calories, by the way.

 

Can’t I just mix my water, calories and sodium into a drink and use that?

While the one-stop-shopping nutrition/hydration approach is appealing for obvious reasons, we have found it to be less effective than separating our three primary intake items (water, sodium, and calories of carbohydrates) due to the variable nature of race day. When everything is mixed together, you have zero options to adjust one area on the fly based on the feedback your body is giving you. Need more water? Sorry, it has to come with more sodium and calories. Feeling sloshy? You have to keep drinking – have to get those carbs in before the run!

 

In conclusion

Begin gathering data and creating an effective hydration plan now – if you are a coached athlete, discuss with your coach the plan they have for you. Summer training and racing, as well as any late-season races, will benefit from your efforts. Remember that hydration is not just intake of water, but a balanced intake of water and electrolytes lost during sweat, and even though you may be able to maintain blood volume through proper hydration during a workout, your body still has to work harder due to the increased need for blood at the skin surface. Last, remember that performance is a bit like a science experiment – we must gather data, analyze, and adjust to achieve the best solution. Use the nutrition report to determine the hydration strategy that is best for you.


Zone 3 Aspire Wetsuit Review

Zone 3 Aspire Wetsuit Review

by Elite Amateur Christian Toews

I have been wearing the Aspire by Zone 3 this year and have absolutely loved it. If you are looking for an amazingly comfortable and fast wetsuit without a high price tag, check this suit out!

What I love

The Look – This thing just looks good and fast. I have received several compliments on the suit at almost every race.

The one-piece shoulder panel with no seams - This feature makes your arms feel almost as free as a sleeveless suit. The range of motion is not limited in this suit and it makes it very comfortable during even the longest swim.

The overall feel – This wetsuit feels thinner than what I was used to before but that is a GOOD thing. The back (around the line of the zipper) is a little thicker so that you receive great buoyancy to help with body position but the rest of the suit is made for swimming fast and freely.

The “spring loaded” shoulder design – Zone 3 advertises this “spring loaded” effect in their design. I did notice that my arm turnover was much smoother/faster in the suit than my previous suit and that my arms didn’t fatigue as fast during long open water training swims. 

Bottom line

The Zone 3 Aspire is a great option if you’re looking for an affordable wetsuit that will keep up with the highest end wetsuits on the market. I would recommend this suit to anyone looking.

 Grab yours at Playtri today or head over to playtri.com and order it online!