One of the most amazing things about triathlon is how it forces us to be incredible time managers and multitaskers. Although we don't have to master any one discipline, we strive to be pretty darn good at three of them. One thing that is always tough for triathletes to find time to do is strength training. Once I convince a triathlete on how essential it is, their performances and health improves dramatically.
Because efficiency is so important for triathletes, getting the most bang for your buck is where the focus needs to be. Forget isolated muscle groups and "core" training. Triathletes need movements that work large muscle groups, develop strength and power, and emphasize postural support. Additionally, it is important to know and remember that for triathletes, the goal of our program is to not necessarily gain size, but rather to increase the strength of the muscle fiber at the cellular level. Therefore, when lifting the goal is not for high repetitions, rather the contrary of fewer repetitions, longer rest periods, and more sets.
Muscle Groups Worked: Posterior Chain (erectors, gluts, hamstrings), abdominals, upper back (traps, lats, rhomboids)
Number of Reps: 1-8 reps
Importance: One of the cornerstone strength movements that builds the foundation that triathletes need to swim, bike, and run. When proper technique is achieved, there is no better exercise to work the posterior chain and postural support that triathletes depend so heavily on.
Muscle Groups Worked: Gluts, hamstrings, quads, calfs, abdominals, erectors
Number of Reps: 1-8 reps
Importance: Another cornerstone strength movement working the entire lower body and abdominals. Studies have shown that deadlifts and back squats are some of the best core exercises you can do.
Muscle Groups Worked: Upper back, abdominals
Number of Reps: 1-15 reps
Importance: A strong upper back is not only vital for a fast swim, but also to support yourself erect on the bike and with proper posture on the run.
Muscle Groups Worked: Legs, Upper Back, Shoulders, Core
Number of Reps: 1-8 reps
Importance: The Overhead Squat not only works the muscles listed above, but also creates unparalleled shoulder stability and postural control. Shoulder health is a primary concern in swimming and being able to stabilize heavy weight overhead will contribute to this. This overhead load also promotes a strong core and postural muscles that will be helpful on the bike and run.
Muscle Groups Worked: Legs, Upper Back, Core
Number of Reps: 2-6 reps
Importance: The clean is the most important power exercise out there for triathletes. Developing muscular strength is important, but don't neglect your muscular power and fast twitch muscle fibers. In addition to working the whole body and create a large hormonal response, the clean also promotes powerful hip flexors that your body will thank you for on the bike and run.
Muscle Groups Worked: Legs
Number of Reps: 2-6 reps
Importance: The Box Jump works our lower body power and the fast twitch muscle fibers that are often forgotten about during our endurance workouts. Good box jump technique also promotes proper running mechanics by learning how to jump off of and make contact with the ground, correctly.
Tips on how to balance life and fitness...
Endurance racing takes time and commitment to be successful. Luckily, with the correct planning, you can have a life in addition to an amazing hobby. No matter what diehards may say, there is much more to life than running, obstacle course racing, cycling, or triathlon. Family, friends, work, and other hobbies should still encompass your life. Here are some tips to make sure you still have friends to cheer you on by the time you make it to the finish line!
Scheduling is vital when it comes to balancing your life. Creating a weekly schedule of your training ensures you get everything done. It also allows you to balance out your work and/or other activities. I experienced a good example of this while planning a weekend trip. Being that I was going to be the only one biking, I didn’t want to bring my bike on the trip just for a few hours of riding. So, I switched up one of my weekly swims with a long bike ride to get that done. I was able to swim on the trip much easier since we were staying on the beach.
Don’t forget to schedule your recovery as well. Not only should you be doing your mobility exercises anyways, but if you are on vacation or just wanting have a good time with friends, you don’t want being tight from your morning workout interfering with whatever might be on the agenda.
You’ve got it down as to when you are doing your workouts, but now you’ve got to make sure you are prepared for them. This means packing your bag, getting your gear ready, making sure you have the right fuel, etc. The night before your workout, you should have everything you need ready, including pre and post workout fuels.
Hydrate! Hydrating is always important, but even more important when drinking alcohol. When we drink alcohol it dehydrates and increases urination. Make sure you are hydrating before, during, and after drinking. Take in some extra electrolytes before and after as well. Nothing is worse than skipping or being hung over during a workout just because you indulged in a few adult beverages the day before.
Include Friends and Family
Don’t be the person that only talks about their racing and training. But, do be the person who invites friends and family to cheer you on at races. That can be a huge step to helping them understand your passion. Also, if they happen to want to join you for a workout, but it slightly conflicts with your training plan, who cares?! One workout is not going to ruin your training and you may never know what that slow bike ride or run/walk may be doing for that person.
Unfortunately sleep is very important. Out at night and have an early training session? Sometimes you’ve got to play the best of both worlds and leave the party a bit early. Hey, at least you went and had a good time. And while everyone else stays out an extra couple of hours, you’ll be getting a good night’s rest and making them feel like crap when they see your Instagram post of your 10 miler the next morning.
Contrary to the title of this article, you can’t really do it all. You have to make the decision as to what is most important and when. Sometimes, especially as you get closer to your important races or events, some aspects of your social life might change. Maybe you can’t go out at night, or you may miss that day at the beach. But, that’s ok because you have an ultimate goal that you have been training for. Once your race is over, you can relax a bit and let things other than your prioritize your life.
The biggest thing is this – be realistic about your training and life. Skipping a great time with friends just because you are training for a race can be a mistake. Workouts can be made up or even skipped from time to time. If it’s on occasion, that is not going necessarily going be the difference between you and a PR. What’s the purpose of training if we aren’t enjoying our lives? Do it all by scheduling, preparing, sleeping, and prioritizing.
How to Survive a Hot Workout
A large portion of our year here in South Florida is hot and humid. That fact however shouldn’t be an excuse not to get outside and utilize our tropical environment as a great place to workout. The beach is still beautiful, parks still spacious, and outdoor spaces should still be enjoyed. Though the heat and humidity can be uncomfortable, tough, and dangerous to exercise in, here are a few steps to conquer it safely and learn how to embrace the heat of South Florida in the summer.
There is nothing more important than hydrating when it comes to hot and humid conditions. Before I partake in any outdoor physical activity, I begin hydrating early that day (a minimum of 2 hours prior or I won’t even participate in outdoor activities). My typical one hour run hydration consists of a minimum of 32 ounces about 2 hours before a run. I always try to be over hydrated than under. Also, bring water with you to keep you hydrated throughout. Also remember that water isn't the only thing you need to be taking in. Electrolytes are vital for the body to absorb the water you are taking in, so make sure you are supplementing with electrolytes in additon to water.
Just like any workout, make sure to eat properly beforehand. Always eat 1-2 hours before a workout to allow time for digestion and proper fuel for the exercise. For workouts over an hour in duration, bring some food along as well, something easy to digest like a power gel, sports drink, or my personal favorite, raisins (university tested to be just as beneficial as sports jelly beans).
Time It Properly
Even for the most conditioned athletes, working out midday is sometimes just not the best idea. Temperatures in the high 90s with little wind and high humidity can be detrimental to not only health, but performance. Avoid the hottest times of the day and try to work out when there is at least a little breeze blowing.
Shade can be a rarity in South Florida. It’s not my fault palm trees don’t provide much shade. Find a nice, shady place to workout and it will decrease the temperature dramatically. Even better is when this shade is in an open place like the beach or a park that you still get a breeze to cool you down a bit extra.
Embrace the Heat
Heat doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you don’t want it to. I personally love running on really hot and humid days. I just make sure I prepare for it properly before I partake in any physical activity. After proper preparation, I have learned how to embrace the hot environment and feel that it makes me stronger in other workouts. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger (just don’t die of heat stroke).
One of the toughest questions I faced when getting into triathlon was whether I should purchase a traditional road bike or a tri (or time trial) bike. I have come up with a little guide to steer you in the best direction when it comes to this difficult question. Remember, no matter what, a good fitting at your Local Bike Shop will be necessary!
Questions to ask yourself:
Can you borrow either of the two?
YES – Borrow it. Whichever one. Try it out, see if you like it, and begin making your next move from there. If you can ride it for your first couple tris, even better. Now take what you have learned and make a purchase.
NO – Too bad, keep reading.
Will you be riding in group rides?
YES – Because of the constant braking and shifting needed in group rides, you’ll need to go with the road bike. Shifting on a tri bike out of aero position is a pain and you won’t want to be in aero while drafting. You can also put on aftermarket aero bars to get into a pretty decent aero position when riding alone or in a race.
NO – There’s no need to worry about braking out of aero position because you’ll be riding alone, so go with a tri bike.
In your training will you be with triathletes or cyclists?
TRIATHLETES – Go with a tri bike. You may be the only triathlete in the bunch without a tri bike, so you might as well fit in.
CYCLISTS – They will be riding road bikes, so you probably should also.
How athletic are you?
VERY – A very athletic person is going to have the flexibility (or be dedicated to work on it) to be comfortable in aero position and is going to want to compete in their age division at races. You are going to want a tri bike to have that competitive advantage.
MODERATELY – Although you many need to spend some extra time working on your mobility to be comfortable in aero position, I would still go with the tri bike. Being able to get into a good position to use a larger percentage on quads vs. hamstrings on the bike will save your legs for the run.
NOT VERY – Positioning is going to be uncomfortable to get into on a tri bike. Also, you are not going to be competitive enough at this point for the advantages to outweigh the comfort factor. You might want to get a road bike for the ease of the ride and the fact that you will ride more if it is more enjoyable, which it will be with a road bike.
Other things to consider:
Road bikes are more popular than tri bikes, therefore they are more abundant both new and used. You may get a much better deal on a road bike. I would rather get a great deal on a full carbon road bike with great components, then spend the same amount on a tri bike that will be needed to be upgraded in the near future. Check your LBS (local bike shop) for end of the year deals and the used market to see what’s out there.
You definitely have a better shot at getting a good deal on a road bike, but you also have a better shot at a road bike being able to be ridden around the block and taken for a ride. LBS’ often don’t carry tri bikes in stock. So, when purchasing your first bike, this might be tough as you will not be able to test out the exact bike you are purchasing. This becomes less of an issue on your 2nd bike as you will know much more of what you want. But, for your intro bike the sport, it is nice to ride around and see what you are getting yourself into.
Interest in Triathlon vs. Cycling
When I purchased my first bike, my main priority was finishing a 174 mile charity cycling event. Doing a triathlon was in the back of my mind, but wasn’t my primary concern when purchasing a bike. Fast forward to a few months after that ride, and I was in love with triathlon and regretting my decision getting a road vs tri bike. But, my initial intentions was not to be focused on triathlons, it just worked out that way. So, if you think you will be more into group rides, cruising the coast, and socializing with other cyclists – you need a road bike. But, if there is a chance that triathlon will dominate your mind – you need a tri bike.
You will be more aerodynamic on a tri bike, even if you put clip on aero bars on a road bike. You will also be in a better position to be quad dominant on the bike, leaving your hamstrings fresh for the run. If you can handle the aggressive position, a tri bike is going to be advantageous during a triathlon for those 2 reasons. In my opinion, even if you currently aren’t flexible enough to be comfortable in aero position for a long duration, you need to work on that.. There is no such thing as not flexible enough – work on it.
My first bike was a road bike. I purchased it to complete a long charity ride and then signed up for my first triathlon shortly after. When I realized I was much more interested in triathlons, I regretted getting a road bike. I felt out of place not having a tri bike at races and knew my positioning was not as good as it could be. Never the less, I road my first year of races on that road bike, including my first Ironman. After knowing I was in this sport for the long haul, I upgraded and purchased a tri bike. Now, I love having my old road bike for group rides and my tri bike for when I am solo. I absolutely love having both. Also, financially I would not have been able to purchase the tri bike I did at the time I purchased my road bike. If I had bought a tri bike back then, I would still be looking to upgrade. Therefore, I am happy that I was able to purchase a great road bike back then and save for a great tri bike now. I love having both!
Have any additional questions? I would love to help! E-mail me at AspireSportsLab@gmail.com
Looking to improve your endurance and get faster? Two of the major factors come that into play when looking to progress is your V02max and anaerobic threshold. V02max is the measure of maximal oxygen consumption and is an indicator of aerobic performance. Your anaerobic threshold (aka your lactate threshold) is your body’s exercise intensity at which lactic acid (a byproduct of energy production) builds up faster than it can be cleared. Both your body’s ability to utilize oxygen and clear lactate out of the muscle are vital to create energy, maintain muscle pH, and ultimately swim/bike/run longer and faster.
The easiest way to increase V02max and anaerobic threshold is to include Tabata intervals into your endurance workouts. Tabata intervals, created by Dr. Izumi Tabata, are a high intensity interval circuit consisting of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is typically repeated for 8 rounds. Dr. Tabata found that performing this 4 minute workout 5 days a week increases V02max by 13% and anaerobic capacity by 28% over a 6 week period.
This short workout can be included in your swim, bike, or run workouts on a daily basis. I will mix up my workouts by adding a Tabata interval before, in the middle, or at the end of any endurance workout.
How to perform a Tabata Workout:
After a minimum of a 10 minute moderate intensity warm up, perform the following intervals:
Remember that during these intervals, you need to go as hard/fast as you possibly can for the 20 second duration. During Dr. Tabata’s study, his subjects preformed their cycling workouts at 170% of their V02max! So if you want the true benefits of Tabata workouts, make sure you are working as hard as you can.
Begin adding these intervals into your workouts and you are bound to see improvements in your endurance racing!
Read Dr. Tabata’s study here
Triathlons take a lot of gear. As a beginner, this can be overwhelming. As you collect gear, it can quickly become a fun aspect of the sport. Your exact checklist for a triathlon may vary. But, there are a few necessities and things you cannot forget. Here is my pre-race checklist for triathlons of all distances!
Hydration (bottles, water, electrolytes, etc)
Nutrition (all fuels needed during pre/during/post race)
Flashlight (most tris start before sunrise!)
Now, what should you be leaving in your transition area?
Bib for run (bib on a bib belt)
Hydration bottles on bike
Nutrition on Bike
Towel (used as mat for all gear)
Extra nutrition and hydration
Here are a few things you need to remember for race day:
Numbers on Body
Numbers on Helmet
Numbers on Bike
Bib on bib Belt
Now that the race is over, don’t just stand around all morning in your tri gear! Be comfortable to watch other finish the race and wait for awards!
Change of clothes
Change of shoes
When preparing my athletes and myself for our first Ironman, I had a tough time deciding exactly what the best nutrition strategy was for the race. After really digging into the articles, forums, and research, I finally came up with a strategy that I thought would work best. Luckily, my calculations were correct and these simple steps continue to give my athletes success in endurance races. Before we get started, the most important thing I stress to my athletes after I create their nutrition strategy is that we have to test it. Working out the exact consumption, concentrations, and timing is vital when creating a plan. We all work slightly differently; have different muscle masses, sweat rates, body weights, etc. These variations lead to tweaks in your race day nutrition that can only be determined while experimenting in training.
What and how much of it should you be consuming?
What you eat/drink isn’t really dependent on what activity you are doing. An Ultra Beast, 50k run, and Half-Ironman all take about the same amount of time, therefore the nutrition strategy will be very similar. The first thing you need to look at is time – how long will you be racing for? That number is going to determine the number of calories you need per hour. Then, you need to look at the climate you will be racing in. Hotter races require more fluid and electrolytes than a colder race. These two factors, race length and race climate, are the major factors in creating your race day nutrition strategy.
Now in terms of what you should be consuming, you need three things to have a successful race: Food, Electrolytes, and Water. Let’s first start off with two things you need to avoid: fructose and maltodextrin. These simple sugars cause too rapid of a spike in blood sugar and a large quantity of them may cause GI issues. In smaller quantities, training sessions, or times when the nerves are steady, this may not be a problem. But, when race day comes, nerves are high, and a 5+ hour endurance race requires you to ingest more than 1500 calories worth of this stuff, it may become a problem. Avoid the risk altogether and opt for nutrition that does not have these ingredients. Look for products that cover all of your bases in terms of macronutrient content and include simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, and amino acids. Because of digestibility, you don’t really need to take in any fat during the race and stay away from products with fiber (no need to go to the bathroom during the race!).
Whether you want to consume all your calories via liquid or a mix of liquid and solid foods that is up to you. I opt for both. Just drinking liquids over a 10+ hour Ironman gets old fast. I like to have a little bit of a mixture of things going into my body. The current products I like to use include EFS Liquid Shots, EFS Sports Drink, and a couple Honey Stingers on the bike and maybe transitions, depending on how I am doing with my calorie goals. These EFS products also provide ample electrolytes, so for cooler events, this may be all your body needs. In warmer events, you will need to supplement with additional electrolytes. Salt Sticks are an awesome electrolyte option as they contain the same electrolyte composition as sweat and are one of the few electrolyte supplements that contain the full panel of electrolytes; Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, and Chloride. (I am not endorsed by any of these products; I wish I was because I spend way too much money on them!).
How many calories, per hour, should you be consuming?
Endurance athletes should consume between 300-400 calories per hour. This number varies based on your weight, physical exertion, climate, and fat metabolism. Running alone will burn 600-800 calories per hour. So how, at only 300 calories an hour, is that enough fuel to get you through a race? Two additional factors heavily play into your body’s energy storage. The body has around 2000 calories worth of glucose available at any given time, plus fat storage will help you to the finish line. Your goal in race fueling is not to provide the body all of its fuel, just a nice helping to decrease the metabolic load on the body and keep glucose levels adequate while it is going through fat metabolism.
Take that 300-400 calories per hour and play with it during long training sessions. Use the same products you have decided to use on race day. Begin fine tuning that number. Once you are happy with your energy levels and digestion during training, you have made your nutrition plan. Stick with it. Thinking about and executing your nutrition strategy is a great thing to think about throughout your race. Don’t let your mind wonder too much, stay focused and make sure you are getting your nutrition in when you need it.
How much water, per hour, should you be consuming?
To find out how much water you need, find your sweat rate. Weigh yourself (in lbs) without clothes or shoes on before a one hour outdoor workout and then weigh yourself without clothes or shoes immediately after your workout. Do not consume any food or fluids during this workout. The weight you lost is your sweat rate. Multiply that number by 16 oz and that is the minimum amount of water you should be consuming per hour. For me, that number is 2 lbs x 16 oz giving me 32 oz of water per hour. During long training sessions, I have realized I like to drink more than that, so my average is about 40 oz of water per hour.
Do you need electrolytes?
Yes. Electrolytes affect the amount of water held in your body, blood PH, and muscle function. Without electrolytes you will be peeing out all of the water you take in and quickly pushed to the sidelines cramping. You should also be taking electrolytes in the days and week prior to the event. Just drinking water can cause issues like hyponatremia, or low sodium in the body, which is arguably more of an issue to endurance athletes than dehydration. Electrolytes prior to race day will also help pull hydration intracellularly, which will hydrate your muscle cells for race day. If your nutrition supplement has adequate electrolyte content in it, you might be alright. For warm races you will need electrolytes on top of your nutrition.
When should you be taking your nutrition?
I have found that ingesting your nutrition every 10-15 minutes works very well with my athletes. In triathlon, this would begin immediately after the swim and continue until the race is over. In running, obstacle course, or cycling races, I would begin the nutrition about 30 minutes into the race. Stick to this timeline for the entire race. It will keep your metabolism moving, glucose rates steady, and give your mind something to stay focused on.
Have additional questions? E-Mail me! I would love to answer your questions and help you out. If you are looking to take the guesswork out of your plan, let me create a customized nutrition plan for you! Get in touch with me via e-mail here.
HaIts Half-Marathon season and thousands will be running 13.1 miles in the next few months. Here are a few tips to make it the best run of the year!
Learn to run. I know this may sound stupid, but it's true. We all think we know how to run properly, but chances are we don't. Learning proper technique not only will reduce your risk of injury, but will increase your running efficiency and make you faster. Learning a proper "Pose Running" technique is the best gift you can give your running. You wouldn't try to swim a mile without learning proper technique. The same should go for running.
Train Intervals. Running is dominated by Long Slow Distance training plans. Although this method of long runs will get you to the finish line, running miles just to run miles will not make you faster and will increase your risk of injury. Decrease the distance of your runs and train using intervals. For example, instead of a 5 mile run, try running 3 miles with 3 minutes of hard running, followed by 2 minutes of easy running. Repeat that 5 minute interval until 3 miles is complete.
Prioritize 5 to 10 minutes for post workout mobility. Running is very demanding on your body. Take care of it by rolling and stretching for 5-10 minutes after your workouts and runs. Work on just one area for that entire time and move on to a new area next workout.
Don't just run. Running is great and pretty necessary to complete 13.1 miles. But, to reach your potential strength training is essential. Workout with High Intensity Interval Training to be time efficient and get the most out of every workout.
Focus. Running can be very therapeutic and allows you to free your mind. Although great for the mind, not focusing during your runs will not make you any faster. By concentrating on your workout, technique, and pushing your mind and body through barriers, you will become a better runner.
Have any more questions? Contact me today at AspireSportsLab.com or call 954-465-7839 to find our more ways to have the best race of your life!
Have you always dreamed of completing 140.6 miles with only your own body’s power? An Ironman Triathlon is an amazing feat and one hell of a bucket list item to be able to check off. It takes endurance, mental toughness, and the determination to last an average of 12 hours out on the course. But, good news: it’s completely doable. It doesn’t need to take quitting your job and training as a full time triathlete to accomplish this goal. It just takes the a determined mindset, proper training, and good planning to reach the infamous finish line of an Ironman.
Sean Spire is the Head Coach of ASL. He was a competitive swimmer turned runner turned triathlete. He has his BS in Exercise Science from Florida State University and is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the NSCA.