Autumn Swim Sessions

Our swim sessions are now back on as normal – Saturday afternoons at 4.00pm and Monday evenings at 8.00pm – both sessions are held at Archway School Pool – Stroud.

This is a great time of year to focus on your swim technique and make any changes to improve your swimming for next season. Our sessions will help you identify areas for improvement and make the changes needed to take your swimming to the next level.

We also provide a swim video analysis service which enables you to see yourself swim and, through use of computer based video analysis and voiceover technology, slow the action down and highlight areas for improvement. You will come away from the session with a DVD of your swim containing comprehensive feedback and examples of drills to practice. A great way to help you swim better next season.

Plan Your Training for Next Season

This is a great time of the year to sit down and review the season just gone and plan what you are going to do next season. It’s a great time to look at your technique, make any necessary changes and allow time for any changes to be embedded before you start racing. And, you should make sure all your little niggles and injuries are sorted before you start the bulk of your base training.

First of all think about what your goals are for the next season. Make sure you set goals that stretch you, but are achievable. Your goals should be one’s that you can control – e.g. don’t set a goal of winning the national championships – you can’t control who enters that race nor how well they race. Make sure you write your goals down – that makes them real!

Look at what went well last season and identify why – keep on doing those things! Examine what didn’t go so well – what can you do differently this year to improve on those things. These changes should start to form your training objectives for the coming season. Remember – you will race how you train, and if you keep training the same you will keep racing the same.

Prioritize the races you will do. Your “A” Priority races are the ones that you are really aiming to achieve your keys goals in. These are the races that all your training is leading towards and are the races that you will aim to peak for. Ideally you should have 2 or possibly 3 “A” Priority races a season, this is due to the time it takes to recover from and then re-build for an “A” race. Your “B” Priority races will be those that are important to you and that you want to do well in and that you may do a small taper for. You may aim for up to six “B” Priority races a year. Your “C” priority races will be used as training races, gaining experience etc. You wouldn’t typically look to peak (or taper) for these races, nor expect stunning performances.

Try to phase your training working back from your first “A” priority race. A typically annual training plan may look something like this – 12 weeks Base phase, 8 weeks Build, 2 weeks Peak, up to 3 weeks Race. Each phase can be split into 4 weekly cycles – 3 weeks hard training with the 4th week being a recovery week. The base phase is where intensity is (comparatively) low and volume increases to be highest during the last cycle. The Build phase increases intensity and becomes more specific to the planned races and the Peak phase is heavily focussed on final preparation for racing. The Race phase is totally focussed on race preparation and maintaining form if doing multiple “A” races. As a general rule, as you work through the training plan you build volume during the base period, then the volume of training decreases but intensity increases. As you progress your training it gets more and more specific to the race/s you are targeting, typically including brick and race pace specific sessions. 

Group sessions are great for motivation and camaraderie so plan your training to include club and/or group sessions. As you enter the more specific training phases make sure you are doing the training you need to do and not somebody else’s – don’t get sucked into a testosterone packed efforts if you are supposed to doing an easy session!

Finally plan your training around what you enjoy – it makes things seem so much easier!

We are happy to help you where we can with technique improvement, injury management and planning your training and racing. Please feel free to contact us to discuss further.

The Benefits of Sports Massage

Sports Massage Therapy helps maintain the body in a generally better condition, prevents injuries and loss of mobility, cures and restores injured muscle tissue and can help improve sporting performance and/or movement in normal everyday life. It also helps relieve the stresses and tensions of everyday life. Sports Massage consists of a variety of techniques that work deep into the soft tissue and may help to provide some of the benefits listed below:

  • Improved range of motion and flexibility
  • Improved functional muscle balance
  • Increased usage of available muscle
  • Improved performance
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improved recovery from training, racing and injury
  • Improved self-awareness
  • Greater energy

As an integral part of a regular training programme, sports massage can help develop and maintain strong, flexible muscles that are in balance with each other, thus improving performance and reducing the risk of injury. Sports massage will help release muscle tension and stress and remove the general aches, pains and niggles that can build up over time.  Should injury occur, massage helps to restore mobility and function and aids your return to normality with minimal interruption.  

Anyone can benefit from sports massage, not just athletes; people in physically demanding jobs and those prone to postural problems can all benefit from massage. Anyone who wants to improve their general wellbeing or health or who has a soft tissue condition can benefit from a sports massage.

Below are some of the effects that sports massage can have on the body as a whole:

Running Efficiency

Running is something we all do naturally, right, but is our running natural? 

Take a look a very young child running in the park or in a garden. They will typically be landing on their mid-foot and will be taking lots of fast, short strides, their feet will be landing under their centre of mass and it will almost look as though there are toppling forwards. Their running hasn’t been coached into them; this is how they run naturally. Compare this to a typical grown up running through the park. What are the key differences?

  • Heel striking
  • Foot landing in front of centre of mass?
  • Longer stride?
  • Slower leg speed?

The points called out are typically things that change over time primarily as a result of culture and footwear choice and will impact on the efficiency of your running. The young child knows nothing about running theory nor have they been subject to footwear fashion trends etc.

Heel striking is very inefficient as you typically land with your foot in front of your centre of mass and this introduces a braking effect. You need to use energy to overcome this braking and get your centre of mass in front of the foot before the energy you are using starts to push you forwards. The main consideration with regards to heel striking is that you tend to land on the heel with a straight leg, this results in all the shock of landing going through your skeletal system (ankles, knees, hips and into your back) and introduces the risk of injury. If you land more on you mid-foot you tend to land with your feet under your centre of mass – no braking effect – and with a slightly bent knee – introducing natural shock absorption. Think about hopping – do you land on your heel with a straight leg? 

Many people think that a long stride is good for running speed and efficiency and to a degree it is, but you shouldn’t be extending the stride by reaching out in front. As mentioned earlier, if your foot lands in front of your centre of mass it will have a braking effect. You should be trying to land with your foot under your centre of mass, this way all your energy is used to make you move forwards. Think about your foot pawing back slightly as it lands, this will stop any braking effect. Imagine the pedalling action on your bike and your foot hitting the ground just before the bottom of the pedal stoke. You can also help your foot land under your centre of mass by thinking about your posture as you run. Run tall, head up, with your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line. If you lean forward – lean forwards from the ankle not the waist – this moves your centre of mass forwards and is akin to the young child looking like they are toppling forwards.     

We have three gaits: walking; running; sprinting. The main difference between walking and the running/sprinting gaits is the flight phase – this is where the speed comes from – think about race walking vs. running! If we use a longer stride we are typically on the ground longer and therefore slower. There is a natural balance to be struck here as a very short stride will obviously be inefficient also. A longer stride also uses more muscular energy so is inefficient in that respect. Think about how you run up a hill, you take shorter strides and adopt a slightly faster leg speed; this is because it’s more efficient. If you do look to extend your stride do so by pushing/kicking out the back of stride. Watch Mo Farah and look at his kick out the back!

Slightly faster strides are more efficient as you can start to use the stretch reflexes in the muscles to help move you forwards. If we go back to hopping – do one hop and stop when your foot hits the ground then hop again and stop when your foot hits the ground. How does this feel? Now hop naturally, you get a natural rhythm that feels much easier than the first approach. This is because you are using the stretch reflexes in your muscular system to help you. This stretch reflex energy is maintained for approximately 1/3rd of a second, so when running each foot strike should take about that time. If we run for a minute we will end up with about 180 foot strikes per minute – this leg speed is known as the natural running cadence. This may sound fast but try it, when running with this cadence you will find you naturally adopt a slightly shorter stride. 

For triathletes it may useful to note the natural running cadence of 180 foot strikes per minute. If we take just the left foot – that is 90 left foot strikes per minute. If we then assimilate that to revolutions per minute we get 90rpm. When we talk about an efficient triathlon pedalling cadence being 90rpm it is heavily based upon the natural running cadence and attempting to minimise the physiological differences between the bike and run disciplines in a triathlon. This last point is only really relevant to triathlon, not pure cycling, as the cycle part of a triathlon is about going at a speed that enables you to run fast afterwards, pure cycling you don’t have to worry about the run! 

I hope you have found the discussion useful, you will have noticed that all these elements are interrelated so working on one aspect will help with other aspects of your running efficiency.     

The Importance of Stretching Post Exercise

At the end of a training session or race it’s very easy to think you’ve done all your hard work and head straight for the shower. But… you should take time to cool down and stretch after a workout. And below are the reasons why you should be stretching after a bout of exercise.

Look to stretch all the muscle groups that you have been working during your exercise. Slowly move into the appropriate stretch, to a point where you can just feel the muscles stretch and hold it for about 30 seconds, then stretch a little more and hold for a further 30 seconds.   

The main benefits of Stretching After a Workout are:

Stiffness and Soreness

When training and racing, muscles go through numerous contractions which leaves them in a miss-shaped and shortened state and this leaves you feeling stiff and sore if you don’t try and rectify the state by stretching. Regularly performing static stretching can help to decrease stiffness, reduce pain levels and can even reduce the frequency and severity of muscle cramps.

Range of Movement

Various types of stretching as well as other supportive self-care strategies, such as self-myofascial releasing using a foam roller, can help to enhance movement of the major joints of the body, including key areas that are designed to be mobile, such as the hips and shoulders.

Stretching ensures that muscles don’t become permanently shortened, which in turn, will reduce the range of movement in joints. 

Minimized wear and tear on joints

When muscles become chronically tight and tense, opposing muscles become weakened, producing unnecessary wear and tear on various joint and structures within the body. Regular stretching helps to ensure the muscles on each side of a joint maintain an equal degree of pull so that the joint is able to move freely and efficiently in all directions, allowing for optimal movement and less stress on the body.

Reduce the Risk of Injury

By stretching, you reduce the risk of injury as you will have an improved range of motion, which in turn decreases resistance on your muscles.

Lactic Acid

Your body produces lactic acid during exercise, which makes your muscles tired and sore, stretching helps to eliminate the lactic acid.

Endorphins

Endorphins are released after a workout as your body starts to cool down, stretching helps slow the cooling process ensuring you feel energised after your workout.

Blood Flow

Stretching helps the blood to flow back into your muscles at a more regulated pace, allowing your heart rate to come back to normal, your muscles feed on oxygen and nutrients brought in by the blood.

General Posture

General posture is improved, people tend to stand up straighter particularly if you focus on stretching backs, shoulders and chests.

Toned & Flexible Muscles

Stretching over time will give your muscles tone and your body will look more slender. You only need to look at the bodies of those that practice Yoga on a regular basis. Increased flexibility, which will happen the more you stretch, will enable you to exercise more effectively.

Improved health

Regularly performing stretching exercises, static stretching and stretches from mind-body disciplines such as yoga, can help to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate, counteracting the body’s physiological responses to stress and muscular tension.

A Quick Guide to Nutrition and Hydration for Racing/Training

Nutrition and Hydration

Nutrition and hydration are critical to getting the most out of your training and performing at your best in a race. It is also crucial in ensuring that you recover fully and in a timely manner between training sessions. The following are some thoughts on how to ensure you remain fuelled and watered to get the most out of your training and racing.

You should aim to consume a high carbohydrate, low GI meal 2-4 hours prior to training or racing. The meal should contain 2.5g/kg body weight of carbs and be moderate in fibre – e.g. baked potatoes, whole wheat pasta with low fat sauces. You could take a lighter snack 1-2 hours prior to the game, examples would be bananas, cereal, rice pudding, sports bars. 

Where training or a race is longer than 60 minutes you will need to replenish your glycogen stores and top up fluid levels. Accessing an isotonic sports drink would be appropriate as they are high GI. You should aim to replenish carbs at the rate of 1g/kg body weight/hour. Sports drinks, gels energy bars are all appropriate approaches to refuelling.

In the first 2hrs post training/racing you should consume 1g/kg body weight of high GI carbs – e.g. fresh fruit smoothie, malt loaf and a further 50g of carbs in the 2-4 hrs after that. Post exercise you should also look to take on 15-25g of protein – a fresh fruit smoothie is an excellent post race choice as it combines carb and protein intake.

4 hrs prior to training or racing you should consume 5-7ml/kg of fluid to ensure you start well hydrated. 

You should aim to drink at regular intervals during exercise as the stomach processes fluids more efficiently when kept topped up as opposed to emptying then re-filling – little and often is the key. 

Generally you should aim to drink daily 1ml per kcal burned – e.g. if you burn 2800kcal per day you should be looking to consume 2.8ltr fluid per day. 

Post exercise look to replace lost fluids by 150%. As guidance – for every 1kg in weight lost during exercise you will have lost 1ltr of fluid and should therefore replenish with 1.5 ltr. 

To calculate your rate of fluid replenishment more accurately you should weigh yourself without clothes before and after a one hour training session. Exercise at the intensity you plan to race at in your “A” priority race. Every kg lost is equal to a litre of water lost. For example if you are 0.75 kg lighter after training your fluid replenishment rate will be 0.75 ltr (750ml) per hour. You should aim to make up any deficit in body weight by 150% – in this scenario it would mean consuming 750ml x 150% – 1.125 ltr of water. Remember to account for any fluids consumed (or passed!) during the session as these will impact the result.

The Benefits of Being Aero on the Bike

The Benefits of Being Aero

So, what are the benefits of being aerodynamic? 

It is worth noting that the latest research demonstrates that being aerodynamic has benefits at any speed, and any power output. Previously it had been the belief that the real aerodynamic benefits only kicked in when travelling at speeds in excess of 20mph.

In recent trials, our 70kg male cyclist riding at a constant power output of 300 watts on a flat road with no wind could save 6 minutes, 14 seconds by adopting a typical aero position as opposed to riding in a seated position with hands on the top of the handlebars. That equates to an increase in speed of approximately 4 km/h and would result in a time of 58 minutes, 29 seconds in an aero position as opposed to 64mins, 43secs sitting with hands on top of the handlebars. By optimising the aero position it is possible to reduce that time by a further 1min, 30secs to 56mins, 59secs. 

Further studies have shown that regardless of initial speed or power output any decrease in drag area will result in an increase in speed. Generally, going from riding the bike in a standing position to riding in an optimised aero position can increase velocity by about 20% (research has shown an increase in velocity of 19.4% for 100 watts and 20.4% for 400 watts).

The story is similar when it comes to riding on hills. On a 5% gradient an optimised aero position results in greater speed (0.6% at 100 watts, 3.7% at 400 watts) compared to standing or seated climbing. At higher power outputs you can see that the differences are more significant. As the gradient increases the speed differences between riding in the various positions becomes less. The aero position becomes less important on a 10% gradient and even less so on a 15% gradient. 

Further research has indicated that by riding uphill in a standing position, oxygen uptake is increased. The cost of this increase in oxygen use is a reduction in a riders’ maximal sustained power by approximately 17 watts. What this means is that there is a cost to standing that will affect speed – less power = less speed! Less powerful riders will be affected more so than more powerful riders – 17 watts represents 17% of total power at 100watts, whereas it is only 4% of 400 watts. It can be seen that it is more efficient, long term, to remain seated on a climb – especially if you are a less powerful rider. There will, however, be occasions where standing for short bursts is necessary, for example when there is a sharp “kick up” in the hill or if racing to cover an attempted attack. 

From the perspective of energy expenditure riding at any given speed you will preserve energy by being aerodynamic – something that will really benefit you when it comes to the run! 

The following table – again assuming our 70kg male cyclist – shows different energy expenditure when riding at different speeds, in different positions and different gradients.

Energy
Expenditure
at
Different Speeds
 Standing
(kcal/min)
Seated, hands on
brake hoods
(kcal/min)
Aero Position
(kcal/min)
Flat road,
no wind
   
Riding at
20 km/h
4.73.53.3
 25 km/h8.56.15.7
 30 km/h13.99.99.1
 35 km/h21.515.113.8
 40 km/h31.421.820.0
 45 km/h44.030.527.8
Flat road,
11 m/s
head wind
   
Riding at 20 km/h33.322.720.7
 25 km/h48.733.230.1
 30 km/h67.846.041.7
 35 km/h90.461.355.7
5% Gradient
uphill
   
Riding at 20 km/h20.519.319.1
 25 km/h28.225.925.5
 30 km/h37.733.632.9
 35 km/h49.142.841.5
10% Gradient
uphill
   
Riding at 20 km/h36.435.234.9
 25 km/h48.045.745.2
 30 km/h61.457.456.6

In summary the position you choose on the bike can affect your speed and therefore time taken on the bike leg, and/or enable you to preserve energy for the run. If you do decide to alter your position remember to change one thing at a time and make small, incremental changes not big ones!! 

Hopefully the information contained in this short article has been of use and has caused some thought about the position you adopt on the bike when racing triathlon.