The Short Course ~ BIKE FOCUS

On my short course journey, I was reminded of really how great sprint & Olympic distance triathletes can ride a bike.

Just like the swim, from the moment they leave the bike rack, hustle to the mount line, leap (and I do mean leap for many of them) onto their bikes, and head out to tackle the course- it's no joke- they are moving and you learn to find your next gear in short course.

Here are a few bike details that short course athletes have mastered.  Plus skills and drills to implement in your workouts.

 

THE TRANSITION

Bottom line, these guys/gals are lightning FAST!  At Nationals / World's we have had both ourselves and/or clients hit or miss the podium due to the efficiency of transitions.  Short course athletes know that the simple set up is key, you are NOT creating 'a residence' in transition. 

Workout Skill/ Drill to Implement in Training:

Practice transitions! Practice the setup and the execution both 'from the water' and 'to the run'.  To take it up a notch practice not only when you are fresh, but I love challenging athletes to do this as part of their warm down. 

The safest and most effective way to work on your swim-bike transition is to start with your shoes on the bike.

AGAIN, you will NEED to practice setting up the bike with our shoes attached (my preference is to use rubber bands), navigating the bike from the saddle, and how AND where you want to mount the bike.  Don't worry, you do not have to 'hurl' your body onto the bike- but you need to leave time in your training to focus and dial in how you want to attack your transitions.

BIKE HANDLING AND CORNERING

Maybe the worst habits I see in long course athletes are a.) they don't focus on minimizing side to side movement, resulting in wasted energy, not to mention taking away their forward progression (aka adding time to the clock) b.) they forget bike handling 101 and simply glide through a corner only to hammer like all-get-out on the back half, wasting significant time and energy.

Workout Skill/ Drill to Implement in Training:

I say to my clients all the time- even if it is an easy recover spin, "Watch your line and practice proper cornering.  If you can train your body to do it every time you head out to train, come race day it will be automatic."  So two things you can practice, every time you are on the bike:

a.) Simply glance out in front of you, primarily look 6 feet out in front of your wheel and keep your chin down to minimize the neck strain.

b.) Try and hold your wheel parallel with the lane line on the road.  If you find yourself weaving back and forth, you are most likely loosing precious seconds and wasting a lot of energy on race day with your lack of bike control.  With attention to this detail, you will see that this is a quick fix. Long course athletes are just accustomed to logging long miles. Many times they not focused on the small details of bike handling that can really benefit the athlete.

c.) I could go on and on about cornering.  But for now, I want to focus on shifting and powering out of a corner.  When coming through corners, make sure you are not in your hardest gear- otherwise, you are going to have to hammer fest your way out of there and lose valuable energy for later in the race.  While not being in the hardest gear, whether sitting or standing once you are cresting the corner, increase your cadence and then shift into a harder gear only after you have regained momentum.  Do this in every ride- you will not only gain speed quickly, but you will be able to SUSTAIN that effort coming out of corners. 

LEGAL DRAFTING

"Drafting"- it's the cuss word that everyone hates in non-draft legal triathlon.  Have even heard it called comparable to doping.  Here is the gig, there is something called LEGAL drafting when passing or being passed by an athlete.  In short course, you have ~15sec to pass or drop back if you are being passed.  The difference in long course and short course, long course athletes (unless just deliberately sucking some one's wheel) typically do not utilize a slipstream approach when moving throughout the course. 

AGAIN, I am not encouraging you to hang on the back of another athlete's wheel.  Instead, when passing another cyclist, learn to approach from directly behind them rather than automatically moving to the left and trying to make a point as you grind right by them.  Get in their slipstream and then move to their front wheel.

Workout Skill/ Drill to Implement in Training:

Head out with either a small group or an area where there are plenty of riders (aka: opportunities to practice legal drafting).

When I go out with a client, we focus on both passing and being passed by another rider.  Both times, we focus on moving either forward or sitting back into the other riders slipstream or ~10sec and then learning to drop back within ~5sec in order to ensure we are not in danger of other athletes or ignoring the rules. 

The draft legal zone is 3 bike lengths- What does 3 bike lengths look like?

A way to measure the legal distance from your position to the lead rider is by using the white or yellow separator lines on the road (if available).

One line = ~3m long (and the distance between the lines is about 9 meters if you want a further reference). Therefore, you only need one white/yellow line and an extra 4-5 feet of space beyond that between your front wheel and the leader’s rear wheel to avoid a drafting penalty.

Practice both passing and dropping back- to keep it super simple:

If you passed 10 people x 10 sec/person of legal drafting and then 5 people happened to pass you x 10sec/person of legal drafting= that's over 2.5 min of 'drafting' and utilizing others to get you to the finish line faster. 

Short course athletes know the value of practicing and implementing fast transitions, proper handling & cornering ~ keep practicing!

 

Continue to train with a smile~

The Short Course ~ SWIM FOCUS

Athletes don't always applaud other triathletes when they say they are going to dip their toes back into the short course.

I will remind you again, the short course is no stinkin' joke!

It is demanding in a totally different way than the long course.  You don't see folks running around with short course tattoos and telling everyone at the office about their 'long ride' they did over the weekend.

But rather, I have found most of these athletes are extremely humble, consistent, headstrong, and freakin' fast.   

My hope and suggestion, before you 'turn your nose up' at the short course, read on. 

Remember that this sport has so much to teach us about ourselves and the dynamics of racing at every distance and every level.

Here are just a few things I learned about the swim in short course and the drills to help implement the speed and skill to survive :)

 

SWIM

THE START

YEP, from the time that cannon/ gun goes off- IT'S A BURNER!

These athletes do not hold back or wait for others to 'go in front of them'.  I noticed that like we teach in Playtri, most short course athletes want a bit of space and head for the edge of the start line in order to give themselves enough room to chase for their 'open water'.  Once they settle into the swim, they are NOT slowing down- unlike the moderate effort of long course short course triathletes get comfortable real quick with the idea that they are going to be uncomfortable, THE ENTIRE SWIM.

 

Workout Skill/ Drill to Implement in Training:

Work on your deep water starts with sprint sets starting with 25's, all the way up to 300's.  Do not give yourself much recovery but then again, if your pace drops drastically, either step it back to a shorter interval or increase the recovery between each- ideally on the longer sets like 150-300's you would sprint the first 50-100 and teach the body to hold the pace as much as possible.

 

ARM CADENCE

Every swimmer/ triathlete wants to talk about the 'glide/ pull' at calm water pool practices.  That's cute, but we don't have a black line of a calm pool to follow in our open water swim races.  So that essential 'glide' skill for pool, not so great for waves, current shifts, groups of athletes... short course athletes know how to move through the water regardless of the conditions.  Most short course athletes have a continuous arm cadence- don't freak out, I did not say the pull is not important.  What I am saying is that the continuous arm cadence is vital to move with fluidity through the water and around others.

 

Workout Skill/ Drill to Implement in Training:

Within the warm-up, I like athletes to do a 200-300yd/meter swim with a snorkel that purely focuses on the continuous arm cadence.  Visualize a fan- the fan may have 3 different speeds BUT regardless of pace - it continuously spins.  Within the workout, I encourage you to work this drill but implement it after speed or strength intervals to simulate how your body will 'default' come race day.

A great example would be to do a 10x100 pull set followed by 200yd/meter of the continuous arm drill with a snorkel.

What does this do? 1. Trains the body through fatigue to 'recover' in a forward progression, with far less effort 2. Teaches body fat efficiency 3. Teaches the body to stay on top of the water even through fatigue as the snorkel allows the athletes to focus strictly on the kick and arm cadence.

 

DRAFTING & RESPONSE TIME

Right now, pull up a long course age group swim start, then watch age group Nationals swim start.  Notice something??? Long course athletes are spread out pretty far apart, even the top guys/girls are not so great at always finding themselves in a line and working with one another (until the last 200-300meters that is, but up until then, they have wasted a significant amount of energy and mental focus by swimming primarily in their own little bubble).  Now watch Nationals, short course athletes may 'fight' their way to the front, but quickly, you see small packs and/or swimmers slip-streaming off the lead athletes. Research has shown over and over the significant benefits of drafting off others feet and/or hip has not only physical but also metabolic and mental advantages. Its a skill to learn!

 

Workout Skill/ Drill to Implement in Training:

Grab a few friends, head to the pool and hit the workout but alternate who leads ad practice both slipstreaming and the hip and feet. Notice the difference between being the second, third, fourth... girl/guy in line.  Have the lead athlete (also useful for the slower swimmer) use fins in order to increase/ push the pace.  Have a slower swimmer in front, great- work on not hitting their feet, maintaining a small continuous kick and stroke.  No doubt, you want to practice drafting at all paces and positions on other athletes- WHY??? Because in a race, if another pack or swimmer from behind passes your group, you want to already be in proper position on top of the water to accelerate and respond to the other pack.

 

The other skill you want to work on while at the pool is your response time.  Effective sighting is key in short course racing and essential to work with others.  Instead of just doing your normal threshold intervals, ex: 5x300 @ pace- challenge your efforts with 5x300, sighting at least 1x every length.  When you first do this main set, your times will most likely not match your normal 300yd/meter time.  Don't freak out, but notice the discrepancy and keep practicing your sighting technique by slightly increasing your kick and simply glancing right above the water line each time you 'sight'. 

 

FINAL KICK

You know how you hear a lot of coaches and/or triathletes warn about not 'kicking too much or wasting their legs in the swim.' 

Ya, go ahead and nix that idea.  Short course specialists know the value of 'creating a wake' behind them, literally!

You are going to have to train both your body and mind on this one- it hurts, your heart rate skyrockets when you first start incorporating this in your training (as with anything new, introducing a new concept in any part of your training will first increase heart rate and then it will drop as you become more effective with the skill), and it no doubt it is the exact opposite of what our brain tells us considering we are about to hit the pavement in a mad dash to our bikes out of the water.

 

Workout Skill/ Drill to Implement in Training:

At the end of a strength or speed pool session, put on your flippers, and finish with 3-5x100's swim with an exaggerated fast kick. The next week increase distance to something like 2x250, and the following week or two attempt the 500 'finishing kick' swim.  No doubt, it's brutal, but it works!

 

I will say this, the absolute BEST way to practice triathlon swimming is through the obvious- GET TO SOME OPEN WATER SWIM PRACTICES. 

Don't settle on simply doing the distance in the open water, nor is it ideal to just go out there alone. 

But rather the more people you have to practice and push you, the better.

Pool swimming is good but again the best option is to get outside in the true elements of short course triathlon swimming.

 

Next up we will look at the dynamics of short course and racing and how the bike segment is DRASTICALLY different than the long course.

Until next time, train with a smile~

Cycling for Runners

Morgan Davis

Cycling for Runners

Hey RUNNERS...guess what!?!? You don’t have to ONLY run on training days. When I train and coach athletes for a half or full marathon, I always include a couple cycling days a week. My favorite thing about cycling is it gives my mind a break from the monotony of running every.single.day.

There are many benefits of cycling for runners! Cycling is a great way to increase aerobic performance, stay injury free and actually run faster! Cycling is non-impact but has several aerobic benefits! You can go a lot longer than running to build endurance without all the impact running has on the body. Runners can also use cycling as a recovery tool. It aids in recovery by flushing out your legs. Then again on the other hand, cycling can be a crazy hard workout. Run speed can increase by doing hard intervals on the bike!

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You don’t need a fancy high-end road bike to get the benefits of riding. There are six different styles of bikes: road, tri, hybrid, all-road, cruiser, and mountain. All these bikes are designed for different styles of riding. Decide where and what style of riding you want to do before selecting a bike. Your local bike shop can definitely help you with this! Or watch see our quick video series on types of bikes: PLAYTRI TV

Happy running! Happy cycling! Train hard, recover smart!

Find more cycling and running tips on our Knowledge Hub on PLAYTRI.com

 

Orange Mud Product Review by Coach Raina

Muddy Waters
Orange Mud Review by Coach Raina

With temperatures comfortably hitting the triple digits these days, it’s tough to get through a run workout without needing crazy amounts of fluids.  Finding water fountains that are dispensing anything colder than luke-warm are few and far between. The problem, however, becomes how to carry enough water to make it all possible. Well thanks to Orange Mud, it’s now easier to get your hydration needs covered.

I have been running with a hand bottle for quite some time – I can hydrate, it forces me to not clench my hand, and I can even carry a few necessities, such as gels, a key, or even my credit card for a corner store stop. The problem I always have, however, is keeping the bottle cinched on my hand. It always loosens while running, so then all I can do it focus on my bottle and not my run. Orange Mud made it simple – elastic Velcro! With a wider band for comfort, and stretchy material making it possible for any size hand to use, OM’s hand bottle made the overall experience more enjoyable. With its larger, standard water bottle (such as like that on a bike), I had plenty of water for my run that I could easily get ice into. It was slightly heavier, but I’d take the extra few ounces in lieu of the ability to easily fill it with ice any day. It could even accommodate a larger bottle if I needed. Nutrition was tough to get in and out, but with some practice (and patience), a gel or two could be accessible as well.                                                             

So what happens when you need more than a bottle? Carrying bottles on bottles isn’t really possible, or practical. Enter the hydration vest. I wasn’t sure at first, thinking that the weight of the water would really bother me – won’t my back chafe, I’ll get too tired in my upper body, my arms won’t be able to move freely? Not at all! ONE run was all it took for the staff to become fans of the vest systems. The 1 liter option was perfect for me on quick runs, and the 2 liter option was a great choice for longer runs and the guys. The weight of the pack was perfectly situated on the upper back, and as the water sloshed around, the pack didn’t move at all (my favorite feature!). So many well-designed pockets for nutrition, a phone, and soft flasks. You can even hide your nutrition in the pockets over the shoulders! Overall, it was an awesome option.       

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Orange Mud’s long line of products makes training a breeze, and they’re non-hydration products are so fun too. (Check out their Transition Towel/Car Seat wrap!) Come by and try out their latest styles today!

                 

 

Benefits of THE SHORT COURSE training

After several years of doing long course, I realized that my speed (aka: tolerance for sucking it up) was sinking, dramatically.

It has been said, IRONMAN does NOT make you FAST... in fact, it will beat the crap out of you over time: mentally, physically, & metabolically...

And so my response was to kick the distance to the curb and put myself in the speed arena (short course: Sprint & Olympic distance racing).

 

For those who haven't truly raced at short course in awhile: it is humbling, daunting, and it hurts like all-get-out at times. 

BUT, it is also stimulating, refreshing in a sort of twisted way, and it TEACHES you so much about the sport and racing.

My goal last year: Top 5 AG at USAT Nationals.  This required me to race a lot and keep my eyes open to how these girls raced, if I was to hang on.

Here are just a few things I learned about training for short course.

 

TRAINING FOR SHORT COURSE

As expected, the number of training hours were definitely reduced.  BUT, the sessions were easy when they were scheduled as easy, and very hard when I was suppose to go hard.  There wasn't a lot of wasted time just 'kinda' pushing the pace.  That is probably one of the biggest issues I have with clients and also at times I find myself defaulting to as an athlete.  We honestly think we are going hard when in all actuality, we might be uncomfortable out on a long ride with some threshold intervals during distance training. But guess what... in the big picture, that isn't eyeballs popping out of our head, lungs about to explode, that short course demands.  As painful as that sounds, the short course workouts are just that - short - so you know in the back of your head you can grit and grind your way through it!

 

Short course allows athletes to see improvements on a consistent basis.  With long course, there are many sessions that are more vague and the benchmark may simply be about more time hitting the pavement.  With short course, you can almost see athletes check off and push new limits on a weekly basis. Improvements come with the mental, physical, and metabolic stimulation. 

When an athlete talks about burn out or not being motivated, I always think, "When was the last session that they felt like a little kid?"  Not using metrics as a boundary but rather only later as a review, and just letting their body fly freely... I compare it to when you used to race your bike down the street against your friends.... remember, it was so fun to go fast!

When the build is done correctly and there are adequate recovery sessions or days between the harder efforts of short course, you most definitely see progress and motivation!

 

Another aspect of short training is less time training so more time for LIFE & balance.  With the growing number of "couch to long distance" triathletes, the idea of triathlon as a lifestyle is being missed.  Whether it be time, energy or money, long course takes a significant amount away from our daily life and commitments. 

Many sessions, I might have felt like my lungs and legs were going to implode at times IN the workouts, they didn't steal my entire day, nor do they take away from other many aspects of my life. I like to explain it like this- You could literally race almost every weekend, be done before noon, meet the family for brunch, check off some "honey-do's" (aka: chores), play with the kids, and grill up some dinner... that is a full day, but a balanced day.

I found in short course this awesome balance and it agreed with my philosophy as a coach, "We are all athletes of LIFE... health, fitness, training, it is all built around the idea of making you more available FOR life.

Triathlon and training are a part of a bigger picture. I love and want to help establish plans that allow athletes to create lives that are consistent and congruent to their goals, both in and out of sport!"

 

These are simply a few aspects of the joys of training from short course.

Next time, I will point out the significant differences between short course and long distance triathlon swimming.

Till next time, train with a smile~

10 Reasons to get RETUL/GURU BIKE FIT

Top 10 Reasons YOU should get a RETUL/GURU BIKE Fit at PLAYTRI:

1)    You will be more comfortable and efficient riding your bike.

2)    You can maximize your power and endurance with an optimal position.

3)    You can prevent injuries - the right alignment prevents knee and back issues.

4)   Because chamois butter is an accessory, not a necessity.

5)    Because riding on the hoods isn’t aero.

6)    You gain more control of the bike.

7)    Because that numbness in your hands and groin isn’t a good thing.

8)    You’ll gain confidence in your equipment as a complete equipment check is part of the evaluation

9)    You can get a custom bike without the custom price.

10)    Because your saddle should be your friend not your enemy.

Contact your local PLAYTRI Store today to schedule a Bike Fit.

Get all the details of a RETUL/GURU BIKE FIT watching our 90-second video or at www.playtri.com/bikefits/

Have additional questions?! Give us a shout at: coach@playtri.com 

Race Week Prep ~ So close to the finish line

So, you have done all the hard work and training, now you are in full blown taper mode, don't screw up the week leading into your race! 

Most likely you are now simply focusing on that starting line and all the possibilities that race day will bring you.

But don't miss out on Coach Amari's race week tips to help set you up for your best day.

 

1) Sleep

Make sure you are setting up your evenings with minimal commitments and be careful to not schedule many early morning meetings.

This will help ensure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep or downtime a night.

You don't want to force the body but rather make sure to put away electronics, turn off the TV, and do your best to find a routine that calms you down and allows for ample rest

You might not sleep for 7-8 hours but give yourself space and time to chill it out a bit more than normal.

Consider taking a short 15-20min power nap as well during your lunch break.  Make sure you are not waiting till late in the day but rather power down prior to 2pm.

This will likely not disrupt your normal sleeping pattern.  Again, the goal is to simply allow your body and mind more rest and recovery prior to your big day.

 

2) Water

Drink 6-8 oz. every hour you are awake, outside of your training schedule.

I emphasize water for a couple of reasons.  Just to name a couple drinking water increases the natural flushing of toxins, aids in digestion, increased concentration, encourages recovery throughout your taper and ensures the obvious, hydration prior to race day.

I always hear people complain that it is hard to drink that much water.  And then I kindly remind them that they will be drinking water every 12-15minutes for several minutes or hours in just a few days.  Keep your body used to the idea of drinking often even when you are not training.  Don't force water down your pipes, rather drink 2-4oz every 15minutes.

 

3) Breakfast

Race morning brings nerves and anticipation.  A lot of athletes struggle to get down their race morning breakfast.  Although you probably have practiced this meal many times over in your training (hint, hint), leading up to your event, consider eating your pre-race breakfast a few times throughout the week.  Make sure you include the proper hydration to help stimulate quick absorption and your body's ability to utilize the fuel quickly.

 

4) Eat Consistently

Watch out for eating too many additional calories, as your training is at a minimal during taper.  As well, try not to overindulge at any given meal.

Eat small and steadily throughout each day.

Rather than saving your biggest meal of the evening, make your lunch the largest of the day.

Just like with the water, come race day you will be eating often.

You want your body to quickly utilize that energy all while pushing your limits and blood, oxygen, and water being dispersed throughout.

Keep your body in tune with the ability to rapidly digest to ensure come race day your body will properly respond rather than reject or delay your race with each feeding. 

 

5) Watch the Fiber

If you know you experience race day GI issues, are doing a longer distance, and/or are planning a PR- consider cutting back on foods high in fiber starting 3-4 days out of the competition.

This will hopefully limit the additional porta-potty stops!

When choosing starches consider rice and potato-based products while limiting the corn, flour, and wheat.  Also if you are fruit eater, have small servings at the beginning of the day.

 

6) Cryosauna / Ice Baths

Ideally, you want to minimize the amount of inflammation and increase the recovery process the week of your race. 

Your body will thank you if you can score at least 2-3 cryo sessions or ice baths. 

 

7) Massage, Chiro

If you are racing Saturday, I encourage you to get your last treatments on Tuesday and if your event is Sunday, no later than Wednesday.

Why?  For whatever reason, the treatment causes more pain or your body needs further attention, there are plenty of days in advance till game time.

Don't wait, get your race week treatments done early!

 

Have a great race!

It’s Summertime – Time for a Family Bike Ride!

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Debi Berg

Family bike rides can be so much FUN if planned correctly. They can provide a healthy way for the family to exercise together. 

Key tips for a safe and fun family bike ride

1.     Fun! Fun! Fun!

This is essential to making your family outing a successful one that the kids will want to do over and over again. Family bike rides should be a happy time for all. Learning better biking skills will come over time.

2.     Timing is Important

Make sure it’s a good time of the day for everyone to have fun.  Mornings work best for kids in general but choose a time when everyone is excited about going.

First rides are best if kept short and sweet making the outcome a positive one, you can increase the duration on the next ride!

3.     Check the weather forecast before you head out on your ride

·       Match clothing with the weather.

·       Include sunscreen and sun protective breathable clothing for summertime.

4.     Plan your route before riding

·       Find an easy terrain for the first ride that is a short, flat paved path or road. 

·       Makes sure the route is on a quiet road or cycle path this is safe and away from traffic.

·       As the family gets more familiar with riding together, you can then map out destinations like a park or the local ice cream shop to ride to.

·       Plan for bathroom stops as your rides gets longer.

5.     Breaks are essential

·       If the kids are seeming to lag behind, complaining or seem to be hot, it’s time for a break. 

·       Snack and hydration breaks are necessary and can be a part of the fun!

·       Carry a water bottle on all bikes and/or carry a backpack with extra water bottles and snacks.

6.     Making the ride FUN

·       Allow the slowest rider to set the pace for the ride.

·       With younger kiddos - along the route, think about riding from point to point.  Such as riding from a big tree to the next big tree. Breaking up the ride into segments makes it fun and gives a feeling of accomplishment. 

·       Look up destination points before your ride. 

  • “Let’s ride to see the ducks at the lake” 
  • Ride to a playground or design a fun scavenger hunt within the ride.

·       Plan some brief off the bike activities to break up the time on the bike.

·       Involve the kids with the planning and let them take pictures of the family bike ride.  Make them feel like it is a team effort and that they have contributed.

7.     Positive reinforcement goes a long way

·       “You are doing great” or “I like the way you are riding so straight” 

·       A positive attitude will keep the kids feeling like they can complete the ride and encourages future rides.

Safety Guidelines for Cycling

1.     Bikes should be in good working order

·       Check brakes and tire pressure before leaving on your bike ride. 

2.     A properly fitting helmet is very important

·       Helmets should fit snug and cover the forehead, sitting about 1” above the eyebrows.

3.     Be visible

·       Wear brightly colored clothing.  Reflective tape on bike, clothing & helmets can help.

·       Make sure all bikes have both the front and rear reflectors. 

4.     Be Heard

·       Bike bells are not only fun, but they can be used to alert other bicycles and people that you will be coming up and passing them.

5.     Obey the same traffic laws as other moving vehicles 

·       Signs and signals that apply to cars, also apply to bicycles.

·       Know the rules of the road, some include: Riding to the right side of the road or path that you are on, and always pass on the left.

·       It is best to get off your bikes and walk through a crosswalk to make sure you are visible to any cars.

·       In time, teach your children the proper hand signals that notify other vehicles that you are turning or coming to a stop.  Making a game out of who does the most proper hand signals can be fun.

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6.     Always be observant while out riding

·       Teach children to always be looking up and forward.  Accidents happen when we are looking down or turning our heads to look at something.

·       Watch for parked cars that might be opening their car doors or backing out.

·       Be safe when crossing streets. Turn and look both ways to make sure there are no cars or other vehicles coming your way.  It can be difficult for vehicles to see bicyclists.  Making eye contact with the driver of a car is important to make sure they see you.

Enjoy and make exercise a family pursuit!


Did you know that Playtri offers a series of ‘Cycling Skills 101 Training Sessions’ for children? They will learn the important bike handling skills needed to be a better and safer bicyclist.

Please contact us for more information.   Coach Debi Berg, debi@playtri.com

Train with a Group at PLAYTRI

It is simple, group workouts are fun and motivating. 

The goals in every PLAYTRI group workout are simple. 

As coaches, we strive to:

1- teach the athlete something new and implement the knowledge in each workout

2- push limits that are appropriately designed around their strengths and weaknesses

3- make new friends and have a great time!

But don't take our word for it, check out what some of the athletes are saying about PLAYTRI's Weekly Group Workouts:

"I look forward to meeting up with a group to train, it makes it much more enjoyable."- Tish R.
"Accountability, and there is always a friend there who is going to push you harder than trying to do the same run alone. Sweating together is always more fun than training by yourself.
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Or real reason- you will get texts from everyone asking where you were!" - Lauren S.

"Not all group workouts are created equally... yours are the best...I'm not really into group workouts - everybody doesn't have the same fitness level or speed...your workouts cater to all levels and speeds...I feel I can challenge myself by trying to keep up with speedier athletes, or I can stay in my own level and steadily improve...reading a W workout isn't the same as you explaining an interval with appropriate rest...you make them fun and appropriately stressful at the right moments." - Michael D.
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"It pushes me past my ability alone. It makes hard stuff fun."- Stephanie B.

 

"With almost all skill and experience levels represented at group workouts, it’s very easy to pair up with others around your ability.  I find this group collaboration to be a key to dig deep and give the workout all you have.  It brings home the social aspect of the sport.  We are also coached on by the best and most experienced triathletes in the industry.  I have finished each of my group workouts thinking - that was a great workout; I’m looking forward to the next one."- Paul S.

Come join one of the many Playtri Weekly Group Workouts... Don't miss the opportunities to learn, push limits, and have fun in the sun.

New training sessions starting soon at PLAYTRI store locations: https://www.playtri.com/group/

We look forward to seeing and working with you!

Coach Amari's summer approach to Acclimating and Training

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Our research shows that it takes roughly 10-14days to acclimate to the blazing heat and humidity this time of year. Instead of simply throwing your body through the ringer, read up on Coach Amari's easy strategy to safely and effectively adjust as well as continue to nail those new limits, regardless of the temps!  

SHORT ON TIME: GO AHEAD AND JUMP DOWN TO THE ACCLIMATING STRATEGIES FOR THE NITTY-GRITTY IF YOU WISH.

The goal: slowly introduce your body to the added stress and fatigue of the increased temperatures and humidity. An outside factor to consider, how much recovery does your schedule allow?  Meaning if your lifestyle only allows a 5min cool down after each workout, you might consider the more conservative adaption route than the athlete who can include a solid 15-20min foam rolling/ stretching routine or compression boots/ massage throughout each week.  Again, the recovery tools simply help flush that excessive fatigue both mentally and physically- if we are not recovered between sessions, we risk injury due to the a. a rapid breakdown that the heat causes b.reduced mental and physical focus c. poor response, form, and mechanics.

So, let's get down to the meat of how to acclimate over the course of 4-6weeks.

1. Notice at most, we will only build to roughly 80% of your training time to be spent outside. Why? Have you ever heard the 'golden rule' of it is better to be 20% under-trained rather than 2% over-trained??? Let's keep this same philosophy with the environmental demands. (example: if you have 10hr of bike and running for the week, consider at most, at complete acclimation, doing ~8hr outside & 2hr inside).

2. In the beginning of this transition to outdoor training, keep the of your majority intensity sessions (Race Pace efforts or Harder/ Zone 4+) inside.

Rather, focus on your easier aerobic sessions (<Training Pace-Training Pace/ Zone 1-3) to build your 'base' during heat acclimation. 

3. You will also notice, you will never fully be completing your week's total training time (neither aerobically or anaerobically) outside. 

4Ideally you would have at least 24hrs between each outdoor workout.  NOTE- I said 'ideally'- this is not always doable,  but it is preferred.

5. Bonus ways to acclimate: do outdoor chores in the afternoon/evening, walk the dog... casually tackling life outside under low-moderate stress helps the body to quickly adapt to the conditions.

 


STRATEGY ONE

***FOR THE ATHLETE WHO: recovers rapidly b/w sessions, has good consistent sleep quality, focuses on available modes of recovery, regularly maintains a nutrient-dense diet and optimal hydration levels...

WEEK ONE

OUTSIDE- up to 30% total time- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 70%

WEEK TWO

OUTSIDE- up to 50% total time- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 50%

WEEK THREE

OUTSIDE- up to 65% total time- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 35%

WEEK FOUR

OUTSIDE- up to 80% total time- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 20%

 


STRATEGY TWO

***FOR THE ATHLETE WHO: less time to recover b/w sessions, low sleep quality, cannot or will not get: massage/rolling/stretching, maintains less than optimal daily nutrition/hydration, also consider age here- I like athletes above the age of 50 to more conservative in this build up...

Also there is reduced total time outdoor to encourage less breakdown and increased recovery...

WEEK ONE

OUTSIDE- up to 20% total time,- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 80%

WEEK TWO

OUTSIDE- up to 30%- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 70%

WEEK THREE

OUTSIDE- up to 40%- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 60%

WEEK FOUR

OUTSIDE- up to 50%- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 50%

WEEK FIVE

OUTSIDE- up to 60%- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 40%

WEEK SIX

OUTSIDE- up to 70%- this includes both TP/zone 2-3 & RP/ zone 4+

INSIDE- remaining 30%


Happy Training!

~Coach Amari

See Coach Amari's profile

Swim Equipment Checklist

Swimming is more than just jumping into a pool and staring at a black line. There are several tools and equipment every swimmer needs to be successful!


Here is our recommended swim equipment checklist:

 

Goggles:

1.     Brand new googles have anti-fog in them that lasts 6 weeks

2.     Once the anti-fog stops working I recommend foggles that lasts 1 week

3.     The longer you go without rubbing your goggles with your finger the longer your goggles will last

4.     Depending on the condition of your goggles you should probably replace them every 4-6 months


Speed suit:

1.     Allowed in non-wetsuit triathlons

2.     Provides aerodynamic resistance

3.     Eliminates drag

4.     You just feel FAST!


Wetsuit:

1.     USAT rules states that competitors may wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is 78 degrees or lower.

2.     USAT rules also states that if the water temperature is between 78.1-83.9, competitors may wear wetsuits but will not be eligible for awards.

3.     Full sleeve option and a sleeveless option (recommend trying both and deciding on the one you feel more comfortable in)

4.     The buoyant neoprene in a wetsuit will help the swimmer swim higher in the water, decreasing drag and increase swim speed.


More Pool Equipment to get faster and have some fun!

1.     Paddles- helps strengthen arm muscles and correct hand placement

2.     Fins- helps with floatation, speed and strengthen legs

3.     Pull buoy- helps with flotation and allows you to focus solely on your pull

4.     Snorkel- helps with freestyle form by taking the breath stroke out of it

5.     New Wave buoy- open water swimming flotation device for safety

6.     Ear plugs- helps prevent swimmers ear

7.     Nose clips- helps keep water from getting in your nose (great when using a snorkel)

8.     Swim Cap- helps keep hair out of your face (highly recommend silicone…very soft)


Playtri has everything you need to swim, bike and run! Shop online or visit any of our Dallas-Ft. Worth locations.

We now carry the Huub swim and triathlon line:

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Happy training!!

Making Cycling Safer

It’s warming up and everyone is happy to be out and about. So an increased number of drivers and cyclists are getting out on the road.

While there are health and environmental benefits to cycling, the road can be a very dangerous place when it’s not shared responsibly. According to The U.S. Department of Transportation, there’s been a steady increase in bicyclist fatalities since 1991, with 2016 reported bicycle deaths (840 fatalities) increased by 1.3 percent.

It’s critical that both cyclists and drivers take necessary actions in order to keep themselves and each other safe. Cyclists need to defend themselves with preventative measures and strategic ways of riding. Drivers, on the other hand, need to be extra vigilant and respectful of the additional cyclists that are inhabiting the lanes. Here are some tips to keep in mind when sharing the road.

CYCLISTS

Protect Yourself Before You Ride

  • First and foremost, always wear a helmet. While wearing a helmet is not a cure-all, it’s one of the easiest ways to prevent major injuries. But it’s equally important that you ensure a proper fit and wear a helmet properly so your helmet can best protect you. Any of our Playtri staff can help access and advise on bike helmet fit.
  • Make sure to keep your bicycle in riding condition with correct air pressure and working gears to avoid equipment failures as much as possible. 
  • Tuck and tie your shoelaces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in your bike chain.
  • Plan your route—if driving as a vehicle on the road, choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path.
  • Don’t go onto the roads if you don’t feel confident with your riding abilities. We suggest joining a group ride to get started or to take classes to learn about new advances in cycling safety.

Make Yourself Visible

While it might seem obvious, it’s critical to remember that you’re more in danger as a cyclist on the road because drivers may not see you.

Best tips:

  • Be extremely visible by using bright flashing lights along with reflective tape anytime but especially important for dawn and dusk riding. Consider newer technology to alert cyclists when a vehicle approaches from behind:
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  • Wear bright colors and reflective gear:
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  • Ride with others in a group when possible: 

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  • “I didn’t see the cyclist” is, unfortunately, a common statement in cases involving motorists and cyclists.  That’s never an excuse, but it’s imperative that you, the cyclist, make yourself as noticeable as possible.

Ride Predictably and Responsibly

Many communities post signs that cyclists have the right to share the road. Often, the safest thing to do on a road that is below 35 miles per hour is to take a whole lane. Because the side of the road can get pretty dirty, you’re better off riding predictably in a straight line in the middle of a lane than making sudden movements to get around puddles or debris on the shoulder.

It is recommended that cyclists avoid riding on the sidewalk so that pedestrians are also safe.

Cyclists follow the rules of the road at all times. While it’s tempting to ride through a stop sign, it is imperative to your safety that cyclists come to a full stop.

Use bike signals with your arms for turns and stops or simply point to where you are turning ~ it's okay to over-communicate your intentions to other cyclists and drivers on the road.

DRIVERS

Be Mindful of Intersections

Intersections are one of the most dangerous places for a cyclist.

One of the most common situations that lead to cyclist injuries on the road is when a cyclist is going straight and gets hit by a car making a right turn by crossing over the cyclist’s path of travel.

Drivers need to signal early and cyclists who are traveling straight through an intersection need to be sure to not pass cars on the right if the cars have their right-turn signal on or appear to be veering right to make a turn. Bikes should pass on the left in these instances.

Pass With Care

Cyclists should always try to ride as predictably as possible. There are circumstances that force a sudden movement by a cyclist. It’s important for drivers to keep this in mind while passing bicycles on the road. The law in most states dictates that a driver must give a cyclist three feet space while passing.

It’s a good idea to be extra cautious when passing a cyclist — by driving slowly and giving sufficient distance — you never know when a cyclist might need to veer unexpectedly.

Be Patient

Getting stuck behind a cyclist may slow a driver down a few minutes, but the reality is that cyclists have virtually the same rights as motorists in nearly every state and need to be treated that way. Getting road rage behind a cyclist is a recipe for disaster for all involved.

The safe course of action for both cyclists and drivers is to be patient and respectful of each other’s existance and right to the road.

Ride happy and stay safe.

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Find cycle gear and accessories at any of our Playtri locations.

Find a group ride within your community. Playtri offers weekly rides at many locations: playtri.com/playtri-club/

 

Overcoming the Fear of Swim with Coach Raina

If there’s one thing that I hear over and over again when it comes to triathlon, it’s negativity about the swim portion of the race.

“I’m going to be the last person out of the water.”

“I’m not a great swimmer, it’s my worst part.”

“I just need to get the swim done so I can get to the bike.”

“I’m just hoping I don’t drown!”

Let me start off by saying that I also hope you don’t drown - Good grief, that’s not a great race plan!! As a triathlete and coach with a competitive swimming background, it was difficult hearing this over and over as I began coaching newcomers and age-groupers. “Swimming is like breathing to me” I’d tell them, and my lack of understanding of their fears, quite simply, left me puzzled. So as a coach that tries to bring hard science and education to athletes, I knew I had to look for commonalities and solutions.

After countless swim analysis sessions with athletes of all skills and levels, it’s surprising how alike we all really are. I find myself repeating much of the same principles and tactics to athletes that are not only struggling with the swim, but also fine-tuning their swim!! In the end, it all boils down to a few key, foundational techniques, and then it’s like anything else – it takes practice! Here’s what I’ve found helps athlete’s step out of fear, and into the water:

Get a swim analysis.

Youtube is NOT the way to learn how to swim (I’m still so shocked that I hear this on the regular!). Having a coach that can look at your technique one on one, and give you instant feedback, is a great way to learn how to adjust your swim to get more efficient. Video recording of your actual swim, mirrors in the water (such as in the Playtri endless pool), and taking pictures are some of the ways that athletes can see what the coach sees, and can immediately address during a session. Getting efficient in technique will help strengthen your balance in the water and make you more comfortable in the water.

Understand and plan for your swim.

Do you have something specific you’re shooting for? When you have a clear focus point, it can help keep you moving in the right direction. If you’re training for a race, know what the swim portion will consist of: How far is the swim? Will it be in a pool or open water? How long is the pool?  All too often, many athlete’s end up underprepared for the swim because they didn’t spend enough time training for race conditions. Using a pool to practice for open water, wrong pool size, not practicing with a wetsuit, and even the wrong lens color for the conditions of the day can create anxiety. Knowing what to expect on race day will help give you time to practice more of what you need. Visualizing your swim, joining coached open water swims, practicing your race day gear will make you more comfortable and more at ease come race day.

Remember you’re not alone, so keep moving!

Swimming is by far the most difficult portion for most triathletes, whether physically or mentally, so knowing that most of the people around you are feeling the same can help put you at ease - We all start out in “unfamiliar waters”. Keep your focus on what you’re doing in the moment, (trying to minimize the starting/stopping cycle so it will be more efficient and faster) and you won’t allow yourself the time to focus on anything else but your swim!

Before you know it, you’ll be through the water and back on land!!

Find a swim coach and training sessions with Playtri at playtri.com/personaltraining/

Running Tips from Coach Chuck

Running Tips to Get You Started:

·      If you are a beginner, don’t worry about how many miles to run, begin by running for time, not distance. 

·      When you decide to start running, purchase a good pair of running shoes designed for your arch and stride type. If you're not sure which type of shoe you need, visit a Playtri Store to get fitted properly. Good socks are as important as good shoes. Look for socks that are seam-free, and ones that manage moisture so you won't get blisters.  You can get those at Playtri too!

·      Before you start a run, you need a good warm-up routine, which includes dynamic stretching to get the blood flowing. Leave the static stretching for the post-run routine. Dynamic stretching includes walking lunges, butt kicks, high knees and toy soldiers—straight-leg kicks that stretch the hamstrings. Dynamic stretching will increase your flexibility and help prevent injuries by strengthening your muscles and joints. After doing some dynamic stretching, walk briskly for five minutes, then speed up to a comfortable jogging or running pace.  Check out Playtri TV for examples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48-xuaY9RxA

·      When you finish your first run, don't stop suddenly. Instead, walk for another five minutes to cool down gradually.  

·      Recovering after a run is one of the most important aspects of training. Running makes your legs strong, toned and, unfortunately, tight. Stretching not only increases flexibility but can also be a vital way to avoid injury. Stretch your major muscle groups with focus on the quadriceps, hamstrings, IT band, upper and lower back, groin and hip flexors. Slowly ease your way into each stretch and hold it for 30 to 45 seconds.  

·      Running can also deplete the body's muscle glycogen stores, which is the primary fuel source for running. Replenishing muscle glycogen after a run within 30 minutes is important, and can be as easy as drinking chocolate milk, which is full of carbohydrates and contains protein. 

·      Beginning runners that want total body strength should include core workouts in their routine. Core work can also be done on days you do not run. You can have a great core workout without going to a gym or needing any equipment. Focus on body-weight exercises such as push-ups, plank and abs exercises, back extensions, and body weight squats.  

Running form is unique to the individual, but can be improved upon. Some general form tips:

-       Run tall without a pronounced forward lean

-       Don't look at your shoes as you run; look toward the horizon

-       You can run faster by increasing your stride turnover, not by overreaching with each stride

-       On uphills, shorten your stride, and drive more with your arms. Try to maintain an even effort, not pace

-       When running downhill, let gravity work for you by leaning slightly forward

At Playtri we can provide run form analysis, shoe fitting, coaching, and group training.  Stop by a Playtri location or contact Chuck at selcuk@playtri.com for questions or to get started.

Recommended Replacement ~ Bike Equipment

Training your body to stay in tip-top shape is only half the work!  Be sure your equipment is performing for you too.  

Here is a guide for how often you should update your cycling equipment to ensure safety and quality performance.

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Meet James

Our in-house bike guru and race team member gives his recommendations on how often to replace your bike gear & equipment


Bicycle Equipment replacement guide:

Cycling shorts - Once a season

Cycling helmet - Every 5 years (from date of manufacture)

Cycling gloves - Every 18 months

Cycling jersey - Every 18 months

Cycling eyewear - Every 2 years

Cycling socks - Once a season

Cycling shoes - Every 2-3 years

 

Bicycle parts replacement guide:

Cables and Housing - Once a season

Chain - Twice a season

Cassette - Once a season

Chain Rings - Every 2-3 years

Tires - Once to twice a season (depends on riding conditions)

Handlebar tape - Once a season

Shifter hoods - Every 2 years

Pedals - Every 3 years

Saddle - Every 1-3 years

Shifters - Every 3-5 years

Tubes - As needed

Carbon wheels - Every 3-4 years

Aluminum wheels - Every 3-4 years

 

Get the service you need at: playtri.com/service/
 

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James Kennedy
Playtri Store Manager - Plano

Hello Recovery Workout! Why training less than TP is beneficial

If science shows us that we should spend NO MORE than 30% (at the very most) in anaerobic training on a YEARLY basis- then logically, you can understand the stress (albeit good stress) that it puts on the body and mind. 

On the flip side of the coin- that means our body DEMANDS recovery...

How do we in Playtri define recovery (not aerobic effort but true recovery efforts)= <TP OR <ZONE 1/2...  what, when, why, how is <TP beneficial???

QUESTIONS I GET:

1- "Why the HELL am I/ are you wasting my time doing this easy of a workout?"

We are looking to increase mental, metabolic, and muscular recovery.

There is plenty of research that has shown that easy sessions will increase performance/ quality of harder/longer workouts + stimulate fat efficiency (esp digestive health, which as we have previously discussed equates to IMMUNE FUNCTION- huge as we age!) + relaxes the body to maintain balance and psychological well being.

2. "If it is about recovery, why am I just not taking the entire day off- Aren't these just crap miles?"

Easiest visualization of the body= IT IS ONE MASSIVE PUMP- blood flow, oxygen/ carbon dioxide exchange, digestive tract....

It craves and operates at its HEALTHIEST when it is PUMPING consistently and for the most part steadily.

That said- active recovery workouts at the very least= increase blood flow and pushes "FRESH" oxygen throughout the entire body.

The athlete that likes to ride the line RIGHT UNDER where their aerobic efforts begin (TP or mid Zone 2)- these are the athletes are the ones who later in the year start to breakdown and many times lead to injury, lower immune function/ illness, or lack of motivation to get even a short workout in...

In other words, not worth it in in the long run!!!

3. "But is there a time when taking off an entire day might be more productive?"

FOR SURE!!! More bc we need or crave just a day... if you are like me I need to run errands, go to brunch, sleep in, family/ friend fun, travel :)...

We need to keep a balance, This is why I have recently / strongly encouraged athletes to give me specific day(s) of the week that they would like to have off when doing their schedules.  Ideally we would see 5-6days/ week of consistent training, dependent upon the individuals goals and commitments (even if it means only 30min/day- my job= maximize your time and energy so that you may live a healthy and active lifestyle).

Again, workouts should be A PART of a fun and fulfilling life!

4- "What does EASY really mean- how fast should I go?"
Bike: <TP/ < Zone 1-2= both heart rate (the effort you put into the workout) AND power (the efficiency your effort- reminder, low heart rate but high power/ fast pace means you are either recovered OR your fitness has elevated- these are simple internal factors. 

Yes, you may need to be in your easiest gear- GREAT work easy gear/ high cadence- this is a recovery workout!

Run: <TP/ <Zone 1-2 heart rate AND at least 2min SLOWER than your threshold pace.

Ex: 7min pace on 10k at 160bpm, EASY= at least 30bpm below TP heart rate AND no faster than 9min pace

(Hr rates discrepancy may vary based on testing)

(***Also could also vary based on different terrain, lower winds, more shade, lower temps... tons of outside factors. Partly why pace and hr rate are used)

Yes, you may have to walk- GREAT work form and staying relaxed- this is a recovery workout!

5. "But I can go faster than this and it seems too easy!"

Consider these:

A. Check with your coach/ consider retesting- they/ you should absolutely be able to review multiple files that will reveal whether or not this is necessary.

B. Think BEYOND today / look beyond your nose- if you or your coach has scheduled an easy day- most likely, a harder day is around the corner.

C. No one cares how fast you can go on your EASY DAYS. Let everyone comment on how slow you were going, you will show them when it counts :)

D. Again, consider the goal of the workout- you should simply feel and be completely REFRESHED after this type of workout!!!

Here's to staying healthy both in mind and body through the easy days~

Happy Training!!!

Metabolic Testing and the Bonk

Metabolic Testing and the Bonk

As many of you know, I spend a few hours every day getting to interact with retail customers at the Playtri 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.

First, know that nutrition is king in Ironman. It isn’t a last minute consideration. All the quality training in the world can fall apart in a blink on race day with the wrong nutrition strategy (I’m not even going to get into hydration here – see the last email article on hydration and electrolytes).

Let me explain. Athletes who have been training or racing long course have likely all experienced “the bonk” – that dreaded sensation of suddenly hitting a point where either the muscles stop firing, the brain stops thinking, or, you know, both. It will quite literally stop you in your tracks. It happens reasonably often in triathlon, and exponentially more at the Ironman distance. Note that bonking is NOT the same as cramping (another evil villain of endurance sports), though they can definitely happen concurrently!

Bonking occurs due to a lack of carbohydrates available to brain and/or muscles. Why does this happen? Without going too deep into the science, carbohydrates and fats are both potential energy sources for the creation of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), a chain of three molecules that split to create the energy that causes muscles to contract (allowing us to swim, bike, run, etc.). Of the two potential energy sources (fat and carbs), carbohydrates are easier for the body to access for the process of creating ATP, so the harder we work (swimming, biking or running faster/harder), the more our body moves towards relying on carbs instead of fat. This would be great, except that, while our bodies have massive stores of fat (that’s not a comment on the reader’s weight – even the leanest athlete has enough stored fat for days at any given time), our carbohydrate stores are much more limited – perhaps 500g (2000 kcals), give or take 100g.

This is where we run into a problem. Some athletes may burn through 1000 kcals or more of carbohydrates in an hour at high intensities, meaning they could easily burn through their stores before their event is completed (fun fact – the average Ironman finish time is 12:35:00 – significantly longer than 2 hours, which is approximately how fast you’ll burn through your carbs at 1000 kcals per hour). You likely have two questions for me now:

1. Can’t I just replace the carbs I’m burning? Isn’t that what gels are for?

Yes, thank goodness. The challenge is that, on average, women can only absorb 100-200 kcals of carbs an hour, and men can only absorb 200-300 kcals an hour, at moderate intensity (yes – the faster you go, the more carbs you burn, and the harder it is to absorb carbs that you are consuming!) So if you’re burning 1000 kcals of carbs an hour, and can only replace 200 kcals – you do the math, but you’re still not making it to 12 hours and 35 minutes before you bonk.

2. If I burn through all my carb stores, won’t my body just slow me down and start using fat stores instead?

Unfortunately it isn’t that simple – aerobic metabolism requires some carbohydrates, even at very low activity levels, so if the carb tank is empty, you’re probably not going anywhere, slow or otherwise.

3. But the pros are going super-fast – aren’t they burning through 1000’s of carbs on the bike?

Yes, the pros are going super-fast – but we have to remember that our super-fast is their moderate. It isn’t that their bodies just have more carbs to burn, they just maintain higher power/speed at lower heart rates.

Many athletes take the trial and error approach – while doing progressively longer workouts, they test different nutrition strategies and track successes and failures, hopefully narrowing it down to something that works. Of course, that means if you don’t have many successful experiments before race day, you may or may not have a solid plan going into your event. There’s definitely a “hope for the best” element to this strategy that isn’t my preference, but has certainly worked for plenty of athletes, so I won’t knock it.

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However, at Playtri we utilize a form of performance testing that takes a good deal of the guesswork out of nutrition strategy for Ironman, which we call “Caloric Expenditure Testing,” or “Metabolic Testing.”

 I just about require all of my 70.3 and IM clients to complete this 15-20 minute test, which gives me a data chart that looks something like this:

Athlete Name: Edna Example

Test Date: May, 2017

Test: Bike

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Let’s say this chart was completed for the athlete on the bike. If the athlete wanted to do her IM bike in 6 hours, and could average 19 mph on the bike on race day at 130 bpm, she could take 100 kcals of carbs an hour and come off the with carb stores essentially intact. So let’s say she isn’t quite that strong, and her heart rate will be at 145 for her to maintain that pace – taking 100 kcals of carbs an hour would now mean that she burned through 900 kcals of carbs prior to starting the run. Well, if she had 2000 kcals in the tank to start, that means she may have 1100 left for her run (not counting kcals burned during the swim), which, if she has the same chart for her run calorie expenditure, it could then be determined if that was enough to achieve her goal for the day.

For many athletes, doing the test and understanding how much they burn at different heart rates is enough – they or their coach can take the information, and formulate effective plans for training and racing.

However, what if the chart looked like this:

Athlete Name: Edna Example

Test Date: May, 2017

Test: Bike

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Even if the athlete can hold 19 mph at 130 bpm, and absorb 100 kcals of carbs an hour, she would still burn through 1800 kcals of carbs during the bike, leaving her with next to nothing to run her marathon on. Assuming she has done this test some months prior to her race, she has three options:

1. Change her goal (go slower than 6 hours on the bike)

2. Improve her ability to utilize fat instead of carbs at 130 bpm

3. Improve her power/speed at a lower HR

If she is doing the test a week before her race, she has one option:

1. Change her goal

This is why we recommend doing this test twice during long course training – once at the beginning of training to assess the situation, and help the athlete or coach effectively plan their focus for the coming training block (instead of just hoping for decent numbers prior to race day), and then once right before the race, to re-check numbers going into the event, and finalize the nutrition strategy.

Hopefully, this gets your gear spinning on long course nutrition. Of course, it isn’t just a numbers game. Other considerations, like what type of nutrition to take in, how to time it with hydration, what you personally are able to absorb, etc., are also part of the planning process. The most important thing is to start planning nutrition NOW, and make sure you have as much data as possible to do it efficiently. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to me, or any of the other Playtri coaches.

Learn more about Performance Testing at: playtri.com/testing/

 

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Running Equipment Checklist

How To Choose Running Shoes

Photo credit: Saucony

Photo credit: Saucony

There is no “best” or “great shoe” that will make every runner happy.  Every major running brand manufactures all different types of running shoes (cushioning, stability, minimalist, racing, trail, among others).  Therefore, you will have a good pair of running shoes and a lot of not-good ones from any brand.  What determines a good running shoe for a runner is to know the running form.  Also, distance or surface will determine the type of the shoe. It’s recommended to get help from a “fitter”, preferably after knowing the running form.  The shoe “consultant” should be able to match the perfect shoe based on the runner’s form.  A pair of running shoes which was a miracle for a particular runner may be the cause for injury for another one. 

Why Do We Need to Replace Running Shoes?

While most of the visible wear to a shoe occurs on the upper fabric and the “outsole,” the hard rubber bottom of a running shoe, the wear that most affects biomechanics (and thus, the wear most likely to have an effect on injury risk) occurs inside the midsole.

While EVA foam is quite resilient, research shows that it still breaks down over the course of thousands of foot-strikes.  The wear will be more if the athlete is running every day versus every other day, so we recommend having two pairs for everyday runners.  Also, the surface (concrete vs. dirt), weight of the runner, and running gait (over-striding will wear the shoes) are some of the other factors that determine wear and tear.  As a guidance, it is recommended to switch to new running shoes after 500 miles (250 miles for racing shoes).

What to consider when buying a running shoe:

Photo credit: Hoka One One

Photo credit: Hoka One One

 

Outsole Characteristics

The outsole is the bottom of the running shoe. A quality running shoe will have two types of rubber on the outsole: carbon rubber and blown rubber. Carbon rubber is a stiff and heavy material, while blown rubber is lighter-weight, cushioned and flexible.

Good running shoes have flex grooves and a split heel. Flex grooves are cut horizontally across the forefront of the outsole. They allow your foot to flex at the ball and roll more naturally when you are running. A split heel creates an outer and inner piece of the outsole. The split heel makes heel-to-toe running more efficient.

Midsole Characteristics

The midsole is the shock-absorbent material between the outsole and the upper shoe. This is an important part of a running shoe because the construction and materials impact cushioning and support of the shoe. There are usually two types of cushioning found in good running shoes. EVA is a lightweight cushion with limited stability and durability. Polyurethane is more dense and stable, making it heavier. Try shoes with the different types of midsoles so you have a better idea of how they feel.

When looking for overall stability in a running shoe, look for stiff materials used in the midsole. These materials are in the inner or medial part of the shoe in order to prevention excessive inward rolling. Heavier-dense materials may also be in the medial part of the shoe to increase stability. This could be a big plus if you choose a running shoe with EVA cushioning. If you’re not sure what materials are in the running shoes, ask a salesperson.

Upper Characteristics

The upper is the outer body of the running shoe. The materials that make up these running shoes are lightweight mesh, which provide stability, comfort and a snug fit.

A last is the shape of the running shoe. Running shoes will come in three different shapes: straight, semi-curved and curved. These different shapes will vary in comfort depending on how they conform to your particular foot. The toe box is the front part of the shoe that should allow your foot to flex. Never wear running shoes with a too-small toe box, which can cause pain and cramping. Allow about an inch (or a thumb’s width) space between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. Heel counters are a material that reinforces the heel and promotes stability. They may come in different degrees of stability and stiffness.
 

Let's Talk Socks

Photo credit: @Swiftwicksocks

Photo credit: @Swiftwicksocks

Every runner should have a good pair of them. Running socks are specifically designed with synthetic fibers in order to help give you the added comfort and support you need. Running socks also help to protect your feet. They can reduce your risk of developing painful calluses and blisters. One of the most important features is “wicking” which means the running sock literally pulls the moisture away from your feet and transfers it to the outside of your shoe. The fit is also important, the sock should be snug, comfortable and supportive on the arch and Achilles areas.

Compression Sleeves/Socks

Compression technology has been provided to limit swelling, especially in the calves, where a substantial amount of blood volume can pool while running.  Good compression product should help better circulation, hence oxygenation and recovery.  But what’s equally beneficial about compression is the fact that they reduce muscle vibration, which results in muscle fatigue.

Increased blood flow is going to help improve your performance and decrease the rate of fatigue of your muscles. It will also help you to recover quicker, meaning that you will be ready for your next workout, so you can train harder.

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Shop Playtri for all your running needs ~ our expert sales staff will set you up with the right gear to achieve your running goals!

Consistency is Key

Coaches and athletes,

I wanted to take a moment of your day to highlight an athlete and topic that I am extremely passionate about.

The athlete is Amber Motsney - many of you know Amber already, and that she is a mom of three with a full-time job, and a husband (Mike) who also has a full-time job. In 2017, Amber completed the Galveston 70.3, and she told me 2018 would be her year to do Ironman (she had selected IMTX for her race due to travel logistics), and we began an individual coaching relationship in November, giving us six months to build to IM. I'll get back to Amber in a moment.

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The topic is consistency. Consistency creates cumulative load, which is something I often talk about in reference to athletes. In my mind, there are essentially two types of load: short-term (load from a single workout) and cumulative (load built over weeks, months, years, etc.)

Athletes tend to enjoy focusing on the short-term load - that super hard, super long or super fast workout that they did that they're really proud of. It looks cool on social media and sounds cool when they tell their friends/training buddies about it. These workouts can be great, but only if they are a part of a larger process, meaning that the athlete can:

  • Successfully complete the workout as planned (the one exception here is workouts at the end of key load workout chunks - 2 to 3 days - when athletes may struggle to get HR up)
  • Successfully recover from it (i.e. not get injured or sick, and still able to successfully complete the rest of the workouts/load planned for that week/month)

Cumulative load, on the other hand, is what actually results in improved fitness. Cumulative load results from day in day out getting the workout done as planned (consistency) - this can (and usually should) include faster/harder sessions, but it also includes long/slow and short/easy sessions. There are a few key components to being successful in maintaining consistency and thus building an athlete's cumulative load, aka fitness:

  • Workouts that fit the athlete's schedule (i.e. that will not be impossible to do due to work, family or other commitments)
  • Workouts that push the athlete, but not beyond their current abilities (i.e. that will not be impossible to do because they are demanding something that athlete is incapable of)
  • RECOVERY RECOVERY RECOVERY (the unsung hero of elite and high level age group athletes) - going to the chiropractor, getting massage, rolling with the foam roller/ball, eating and timing nutrient intake properly, hydrating properly, getting sufficient sleep (7+ hours/night), taking advantage of compression and cryo therapies, etc.
  • Communication between Coach and athlete about how athlete is handling workouts, so adjustments can be made before the athlete digs a hole that results in one really great, hard workout (or one week, or one month of really great, had workouts), but prevents workouts for the foreseeable future, which are crucial to cumulative load built over time.
  • A little luck - I won't lie, ideal training conditions require a little luck at times, but there is so much the athlete and the coach can do to control outcomes that this is not something I feel it is very useful to focus on, though we do have to acknowledge it.

So, getting back to Amber - Amber is one where we have really gotten to see the "magic" of cumulative load. She has been extremely consistent in communicating availability so realistic workouts can be assigned, and then doing the workouts she has committed to doing (or asking for substitutions if things go sideways the day of the workout). She has communicated when areas are unusually tight or sore, or when she is feeling fatigued so we could make minor (and sometimes major) adjustments that allowed us to still get the overall load we needed, without digging a hole (we once rescheduled a key workout weekend based solely on her feedback that likely would have derailed her training if she had tried to "push through"). She has taken advantage of compression boots, chiro and massage to keep her body mobile and activated following hard sessions. All of this has required a lot of discipline and focus from Amber, but the magic has been in the improvements we have seen over 5 months of training.

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Amber is now one of the most fat efficient athletes I have ever coached. She will be able to replace every calorie of carbohydrate she burns off during the bike on race day by eating 1.5 gels an hour. We have almost zero concerns about bonking on the run.

 

  • Her power in Training Pace (Zone 2-3) has likely gone up by 30-40 watts (unfortunately we did not have power when we started, but based on speed we were estimating she was around 100-120 in this zone, and she is now comfortably holding 140-160 in low TP (Zone 2).
  • Amber was recovering from a long-term run injury when we started, which she has now not only overcome, but has really crushed as she is now running 3-5 hours a week at faster speeds than she had previously.

As we can see - this isn't actually "magic," but it feels pretty magical when everything is finally coming together!

Great work, Amber, and to everyone - consistency is king! Take care of your body, keep your focus, and stay the course!

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Learn more about Playtri's various coaching options at: playtri.com/coachinghome/

Unlock the Open Water Swim: 5 Keys to Success

Don't just survive your next open water swim. Here's how to nail your swim when it takes you outside the (chlorinated) box.

Transitioning from the pool to the open water is one of the toughest—and most important—lessons a triathlete must learn. Swimming back and forth in the pool, alone or with your fellow Masters swimmers, simply isn’t the same as toeing the line in a full field of competitors. Whether the race features a mass or wave start, the outdoor environment brings unexpected anxiety and requires different skills. The good news is that knowing what to expect can help you remain calm and cool in the great washing machine. 

Austin-based Playtri head coach Ahmed Zaher is an eight-time IRONMAN World Championship finisher with a 52-minute Kona PR swim. Zaher developed these five keys to open-water swimming in 2000 and has been perfecting their execution with clients for the last 18 years. Hop on board and watch your lake/ocean/river time get faster than ever.

Key 1: Warm-up and visualization

Research shows that athletes will not perform to their potential, and are even more likely to panic in the water, if they don't warm up properly. Warming up allows your body to get used to the water temperature, get a feel for the water and get your core muscles nice and loose and ready to move. 

Studies also show that visualization enhances your performance greatly. Be sure to take a look at the course map before the race, then spend a significant amount of time in the days leading up to the race visualizing yourself swimming the course and executing your strategy.

Key 2: Start position

Zaher always says that where you start on the swim won't help you win the race, but it can make you lose. One of the most important things he teaches triathletes in regards to the start position is to stay away from the "washing machine," or area where all of the athletes are on top of one another. This is usually the spot athletes think is the shortest distance to the buoy. The best thing to do is to start up front on the outside of the start line, on the opposite side of where you breathe. Doing this will allow you to take advantage of the other swimmers, but stay clear of the chaos.

Key 3: Sighting

Your first sighting target is right next to you: other swimmers beside you. Sighting off a swimmer next to you allows you to maintain the natural, in-line, swim position and minimizes the amount of sighting you'll have to do to the front. Sighting from the front forces your core and hamstrings to engage as you try to maintain your body position, which can negatively impact your bike and run.

If you cannot sight off of another swimmer, then sight off a bigger object behind the buoy markers, such as a tree or building. If you cannot sight off another swimmer or landmark, sight off the buoy marker.

Key 4: Continuous swim

Even if you bump into an athlete or a buoy, keep going and do not stop. You might have to adjust your stroke a little, but definitely avoid stopping. At a recent Playtri swim clinic, athletes reported saving anywhere from two to four minutes in a 700 meter swim by maintaining a continuous stroke during their race.

Key 5: Drafting

Drafting can be a huge advantage during the swim. The general rule is to position yourself behind the feet of another swimmer in clear water. In water where visibility is low, the best position is to the side, off the swimmer’s hip. When you are drafting, you don't have to waste energy sighting, which allows you to maintain a streamlined, efficient position in the water.

Zaher says an average triathlete can save several minutes off his/her swim time by following these five pillars. However, at the end of the day, practice is the most important tool in your arsenal.


Playtri hosts Open Water Swims at Lake Lewisville throughout the warmer months...get info to sign up at: https://www.facebook.com/events/182722515836704/

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