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What You Need To Ask Before Using Supplements

working class athlete what-you-need-to-ask-before-using-supplements

Athletes are always asking if taking a supplement or pill they’ve read about or that someone they know is using would boost race performance. They’re looking for that difficult last 1 to 2 percent of improvement that can often mean the difference in a tough race.

To help decide, you need to answer the following 5 questions.

Question 1: Is it legal?

Supplements are often promoted to athletes even though they contain banned substances. There have been many examples of blind trust resulting in testing positive for banned substances. Make sure you check with official anti-doping authorities before taking any kind of supplement.

Question Two: Is it ethical?

Only you can answer this question. Some people believe sport must be conducted in its purest form, with strictly no artificial assistance. However once you begin to consider aids such as carbohydrate loading and vitamin and mineral supplements, drawing a line in the sand is no easy task.

Question Three: Is it safe?

Studies on the effects of various supplements are often limited to only a few weeks. This is due to the fact that most subjects don’t want to donate their entire lives to science. Such small periods of testing and observation may not produce noticeable effects that might otherwise occur with long-term use.

There is also the  possibility that using multiple supplements simultaneously or with common medications could produce side effects that would not be discovered in the official studies.

Another complication is that the US Food and Drug Administration safety regulations for supplements are more lenient than for food products. Always check with your family physician before supplementing.

Question Four: Is its use supported by research?

There may be isolated studies on any supplement that demonstrates the benefits, but does all of the available literature agree? To search scientific journals for studies,visit the government’s Pub Med website, to search for a supplement. You’ll find a list of the archived studies and their abstracts.

Have fun reading the list. It could be thousands of items long. Better still, ask a trusted coach, trainer, registered dietician, or medical professional for their insights and opinions.

Question Five: Will it help in my race?

Even if a supplement is widely supported by research, it does not mean it will work for all people in all events. There are many subtle differences that may affect the use of any given supplement. It may not work for you due to  some combination of your age, sex, health, medication, and experience in the sport.

Some supplements have been shown to provide a benefit for short events lasting minutes but not for events lasting several hours.

Never use a supplement in an important event without having first tried and tested it in training or in a low priority event


Triathlon Tips: Increasing Training Volume

Are you hooked on triathlons?

If you’ve been training and racing for a while and are loving it, you may be feeling like it’s time to start increasing your training. Building up your volume can help you drop some time in your races or get ready for a new race distance.

It’s a good idea to make a training plan and be smart about adding volume.

You don’t want to do too much too soon and risk getting hurt. There’s a lot to consider for triathletes, since you need to balance your training in each of the three disciplines. Here are some guidelines you can follow so you can be your own coach and start to increase your training.

Planning Your Time

First, you want to assess how much training you’re currently doing. If you’ve been keeping a training log or tracking your workouts, it will be easier to look back at what you’ve been doing.

Look at the average hours per week you put in and how many hours or workouts you do in each discipline. Then think about how much more time you can to commit to training. You can think about how many hours per week or how many workouts per week you can do. If it’s much more than you’re doing right now, you’ll want to build up to it gradually.

Next, you need to divide up your time or workouts for each discipline.

Think about which disciplines you’re strongest in and which need more work. It’s easy to neglect the discipline you don’t like as much or aren’t as good at, but this is actually what you should spend more time on.

Here are a couple examples:

• Let’s say you decide you have time for nine workouts per week. If you were a competitive swimmer in the past but are a weaker runner, you might decide to do two swims, three bikes, and four runs per week. This way you can try to make big improvements in your running, slight improvements in your biking, and maintain your swimming.

• Or, maybe you’re a strong runner but feel that you need to work on your swimming and biking. You have time for eight workouts a week. You could do three swims, three bikes, and two runs.

Everyone has a different background, so your plan will be unique to you. Just make sure to do at least one workout of each!

Increasing Your Swimming Training

So, what should you do for each of these workouts? We’ll start with swimming.

Technique is very important in swimming, so if you don’t have a background in swimming, try to go to master’s swim practices or swim with someone who can help you with your stroke. You don’t want to increase your swimming too much if your stroke technique isn’t there yet, as you could end up with a shoulder injury.

As you work on your technique and start to make improvements, you can add in some more swimming. If you do have a swimming background but are just getting back into it, keep your intensity moderate for the first two weeks. After that, you can start doing some faster swimming.

Let’s say you decided to do two swims per week.

One can be an easier workout and one can be more intense. During the easier workout, work on any drills that you’ve been given to do. For the interval workout, start with a ten to twenty minute warm up. Then do a set of intervals for 20 minutes or more.

The interval set should include repeats of any distance from 25 to 125 yards, with 10 to 60 seconds rest between each repeat.

Some swimming interval examples are:

• 12 x 75 [email protected] 2:00 (So every two minutes, you push off the wall and swim 75 yards freestyle.)

• 10 x 50 free @ 2:00

• 3 x 100 free @ 2:30, 4 x 75 free @ 1:45, 5 x 50 free @ 1:30, 4 x 25 free @ :45

• 9 x 100 IM @ 2:30 (IM is individual medley: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.)

If you’re doing three swims per week, your third swim can be a steady, continuous swim.

It can be anywhere from 1000 to 3000 yards, depending on how much swimming you’re used to doing and the distance of the race you’re training for. You can mix it up with some kicking, pulling, or other strokes if you want.

If you’re swimming four times per week, add in another easy swim.

And if you can swim five times per week, add in another hard workout with intervals. This time make the intervals longer, like 150 to 400 yards, and take up to 30 seconds rest between each.

Increasing Your Running Training

If you’re running once or twice a week now and want to increase your running volume, start by only adding one run per week. This will help you avoid injury. This additional run could be about 30 minutes, or slightly shorter than the length of your average run.

You can also add strides to one of your runs. Strides are 30 to 60 seconds of running fast, but not sprinting or straining. They’re a good time to think about your form while adding just a little intensity.

Let’s say you want to build up to doing four runs per week.

After a couple weeks at two or three runs per week, add another easy 30 minute run. Once you get up to doing four runs per week, you can start making one of them your long run. If most of your runs are about 30 minutes, gradually increase one of them until it’s about 60 minutes for your long run.

If you were already running four or more times per week, you can gradually increase your distance and intensity. Do one long run, one interval workout, and two easy runs.

You can include some strides during one easy run if you want, but the run should still feel easy overall. Slowly increase your long run from 60 minutes to 90 minutes.

If you find you are getting sore knees or sore hips from running, you may be running with flat feet. It’s a worthy investment to get assessed by an podiatrist to prevent any long term injury.

Your interval workout can include repeats of anywhere from 200 meters to one mile.

Run these intervals at your race pace. So if you’re training for a sprint distance triathlon, run the intervals at the pace you can hold for a 5k run. Give yourself 30 seconds to three minutes of rest (which could be walking, slow jogging, or just resting) between each interval.

Some running interval examples are:

• 4 x 400 meters at race pace. Walk 100 meters easy between each.

• 6 x 300 meters at race pace. Walk 100 meters easy between each.

• 2 x 1200 meters at race pace. Jog 400 meters easy between.

• 3 x 1000 meters at race pace. Rest 30 seconds between each.

As you build up your interval workouts, think about increasing the total amount of fast running you’re doing in each workout. In the above examples, 4 x 400 meters is 1,600 meters total of fast running, and the next week you could do 6 x 300 meters for 1,800 meters total of fast running.

Increasing Your Cycling Training

If you’re biking once or twice a week now and want to start doing more, add one ride a week to start. Keep your rides easy for now and keep the distance the same as you’ve been doing.

You can add in high cadence intervals for one of your rides. This is a good ride to do on a trainer if you can’t get outside.

First, you’ll figure out what you normal cadence is.

how many times one of your legs goes around in one minute. Some bike computers can be set up to measure your cadence. If yours isn’t, you can just count your revolutions for a minute.

When you do high cadence intervals, ride at 15 to 20 revolutions per minute higher than normal for 30 seconds to two minutes. Ride easy between each interval. Try not to go over 120 revolutions per minute.
Once you’re used to cycling three times a week, you can make one ride a long ride and one a harder ride with intervals. Your long ride should be at moderate intensity. It shouldn’t feel too hard, but you do want to feel tired by the end.

If you normally ride for one hour, you could ride for 1:30 for your long ride, and gradually add time until it’s two to three hours long.

For your interval workout…

do repeats at your race pace. For a sprint distance triathlon, this would be the pace you can maintain for a 20k ride. Gradually increase the length of your intervals.

Some cycling interval are:

• 4 x 4:00 hard / 2:00 easy

• 10 x 2:00 hard / 1:00 easy

• 3 x 8:00 hard / 3:00 easy

If you’re doing four rides per week, add another easy to moderate ride.

This ride could also be part of a brick workout. A brick is cycling followed immediately by running. This is a good workout to do to get used to the feeling of running in a race.

Bricks are hard workouts, so only do a brick every one to two weeks, and keep both the bike and the run easy at first. After you’re using to doing bricks, you can start including some strides during the run to get used to running faster after biking.

Scheduling Your Week

Now that you’ve got an idea of the workouts you’ll be doing, you can decide how you’ll fit them all in to your weekly plan.

Scheduling your week can be tricky, since you need to balance the hard and easy workouts. Try to space out your hard workouts with easier days in between. And leave a few days between your long run and long ride. You’ll also need an easy day after doing a brick.

And make sure to actually go easy on your easy days, so you can go hard when it counts!


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Stone Age Diet For The Space Age Athlete

working class athlete Stone-age-diet-for-the-space-age-athlete

Apart from training, nothing affects athletic performance more than diet.

The body’s cells require proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water for health, energy, and growth. Chronically eating a diet that is deficient in any of these nutrients compromises your capacity for training and racing and increases the risk of becoming sick. Most athletes are aware of the importance of good nutrition, but many don’t know what to eat for fitness.

So, what should I be eating?

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at Colorado State University believes that the answer is found in the distant past when Mother Nature shaped our ancestors with the hard facts of evolution. He points out that todays endurance athletes already have a lifestyle that closely resembles that of Stone Age men and women of 25,000 years ago. His studies show that these prehistoric athletes probably burned more than 3,000 calories a day, dealing with the rigors of existence in a demanding environment. The men would often spend much of the day tracking and hunting animals and would then carry the carcass back to camp. Cordain estimates that they may have ran up to 10 miles in a day, most of it with a 25-pound load. The women were also active as they carried children while finding and hauling fruits and vegetables back to camp. Life was physically difficult by today’s standards.

The humans evolved to meet the challenges of their environment.

Dr. Cordain points out that the evolved genetic changes still shape our dietary needs today some 2 million years after man first appeared as a separate genus in the anthropological record. He believes that since evolution is a slow and steady process requiring thousands of years to produce even the smallest change.

Our ancient genes are still best adapted to a Stone Age diet, although we live in the Space Age.

We long ago developed the mechanics, chemistry, and gut to process the foods that our primal ancestors ate for millennia, and these haven’t changed significantly. So, what our Stone Age ancestors ate is what we should eat now. They ate a simple diet consisting primarily of meats and organs from wild game, fruits and vegetables. Nuts, seeds, berries, and eggs were also eaten.

There were no grains or dairy products

Substances to which many humans still have adverse reactions. Animal products accounted for most of calories, perhaps 40 percent to 50 percent, but the saturated fat content was much lower than what we see in most meats now. These animals were not fed long corn in feedlots, their growth was not enhanced by drugs, so the meat was way different from what is currently found in the local supermarket. For example, today a cut of USDA prime beef contains 560% more saturated fat than the same amount of meat from wild game such as elk, which is similar to what our ancestor ate for millions of years.

Stone Age people ate less carbohydrate than is commonly recommended now…

and what carbohydrate they did eat released its energy slowly with the exception of the odd honey finds. They ate no foods that were calorically dense but nutritionally empty like many of our sugar-rich foods of today. Their foods were fresh and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Their primary drink was water with occasional herb or berry teas. Despite not having a food pyramid to tell them what to eat, they didn’t suffer from the diet- and lifestyle-induced diseases we now experience like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and some types of cancers. It appears they might have actually died in their 30s or 40s, usually from accidents or acute illnesses for which there were no cures. While we don’t know exactly what long-term effects their diet might have had, we do know that many people still follow a Stone Age diet and existence in remote areas today. These people live into their 60s, 70s, and even 80s.

Todays common lifestyle diseases do not plague these modern-day Stone Age humans.

It seems that by eating nutrient-dense foods to which they are fully adapted and by having an active and generally low-stress lifestyle, their bodies are in harmony with their environment. With the birth of farming and the gradual shift in diet towards more cereals came higher infant mortality rates, a reduced lifespan, iron deficiency, loss of physical height, bone disorders such as osteoporosis, and dental cavities.

In 10,000 years, and even less in most parts of the world, agriculture reshaped human diet and health.

While a hundred centuries may seem long, it’s really not in the context of nearly two million years of our special lifetime. If man’s existence were represented by 24 hours, farming would have been around for only the last eight minutes, far too little time for our genetics to adapt. Our popular high-carbohydrate diet with its emphasis on starch and sugar is even newer, having been around for only a few decades, milliseconds on our 24-hour clock. Modern athletes have bodies meant for a diet different from what most eat now.

So, what should you eat?

The short answer is to eat primarily from those foods that your ancestors have eaten throughout most of the last two million years. This includes lean meats, preferably from wild game or free-ranging animals, fish, poultry, shellfish, fresh vegetables, and fruits in season and close to their annual, natural state, and in small amounts nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Those foods that are newest should be eaten in the smallest amounts, especially those that are highly processed. This will provide you with a simple and nutrient-dense diet to which your body is fully adapted and enhance your capacity for demanding training.

Food For Fuel

While the human genetic code has changed very little, dietary recommendations change often. In the mid 20th century, endurance athletes were advised to avoid starchy foods such as bread and potatoes and to eat more vegetables and meat instead. In the 1970s, a dietary shift away from protein began with an increase in carbs, especially starchy grains. The 1980s brought concerns of fat in the diet, and low-fat and fat-free foods boomed, with an accompanying increase in sugar consumption.

Now, the pendulum is swinging back the other way, with the realization that certain fats are beneficial and that some carbohydrates in large quantities negatively affect performance.

The crux of your daily dietary decisions is a relative mix of the four macronutrients you consume: protein, fat, carbohydrate, and water. How much of it you include in your diet has a great deal to do with how well you train and race.

Triathlon Tips: Surviving Your First Swim

Open water swimming can be intimidating for first-time triathletes. It’s much different than pool swimming. There are no lane lines to keep you on course, arms and legs are flying, and you have to deal with the elements. But with the right training, some open-water strategies, and the right gear, you can learn to love open water swimming!

Totally new to swimming? Start here…

If you’re new to swimming, you’ll want to get confident swimming in a pool before you swim in open water. Swimming is a hard sport to learn if you didn’t grow up doing it. Technique is important, and it’s hard to learn on your own. A good master’s coach or a swimming instructor can help.

Master’s swimming is for anyone over the age of 18. You can search online for programs in your area. Many are beginner-friendly, and you can ask the coach if they’ll be able to give you some individual help with your stroke. You can also look for swimming instructors who teach adult lessons, or beginning swimming programs put on by local triathlon clubs.
As you improve your technique, you can also work on improving your speed and endurance. Gradually increase the amount you swim.

For example, if right now you swim once a week, start by adding one more short swim. After a few weeks, add another short swim to get up to three per week. After you’re used to doing three swims per week, you can add more distance or intensity.

So, what should you do during each swim?

If you swim with a master’s program, the coach will have workouts for you. Let the coach know what distance triathlon you’re training for so you can make sure some of your workouts are geared toward distance swimming.

If you’re on your own for workouts, first decide how many swims per week you’ll be doing. If you’ll be swimming twice a week, plan on doing one easier swim and one harder swim with intervals. Your easy swim can include any drills you’ve been given to work on.

For your harder swim, start with a 10 to 20 minute warm up. Your main set should be at least 20 minutes. Swim intervals of 25 to 125 yards with 10 to 60 seconds rest between.

Some examples are:
• 10 x 100 free @ 2:00 (Every two minutes, you push off the wall and swim 100 yards freestyle.)
• 2 x 125 free @ 2:00, 4 x 100 free @ 1:40, 6 x 75 free @ 1:20, 8 x 50 free @ 1:00

Adjust the length of the intervals or the amount of time to make it work for you. If you can do three swims per week, add in a steady, continuous swim. This could be anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 yards, depending on your experience and the length of the race you’re training for.

You can add some variety by including other strokes (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly), kicking, or pulling. If you’re doing four swims per week, add a second hard swim with intervals. This time, do longer intervals of 200 to 400 yards with up to 30 seconds rest for your main set.

Training for Open Water Swimming

Once you’ve built a good base up in the pool and are very comfortable swimming, you’ll be ready to swim in open water. It helps to practice swimming in open water before the race if you can. A pond or lake will work. Go with a friend for safety (and more fun!).

Two skills you’ll want to practice for open water swimming are sighting and swimming close to others.

When you start swimming in open water, pick an object to “sight”, like a building or a tall tree. It should be easily visible from the water. As you swim, every few breaths you’ll need to “sight breathe” to look for the object you picked out and make sure you’re swill swimming straight towards it.

To sight breath, when you take a breath you’ll slightly pick your head up in front of you, look at the object you’re sighting, and then roll your head to the side and finish breathing normally. With practice, you’ll figure out how often you need to sight. The straighter you swim, the less often you’ll need to sight.

Sighting is how you’ll make sure to swim straight in a race and not add any extra distance by swimming off course. In a race, there will normally be buoys to mark the course that you can sight. At some points in the course, like after you’ve passed the last buoy and are nearing the shore, there may not be a buoy visible. In this case it can help to pick out something else, like a race banner or a building, that you can swim towards.

When you swim in a race, you’ll be close to many other swimmers who are heading to the same point as you.

It can be helpful to practice this ahead of time to get more comfortable swimming close to others. You can practice this with one or more friends. Start right next to each other, pick the same point to swim to or sight, and don’t be afraid to bump into each other as you swim.

Both of these skills can be practiced in the pool too.

For sight breathing, just start by looking at the other end of the pool every few breaths as you swim. You can also simulate the close contact of a race by squeezing lots of people in one lane and having everyone race for the other end at the same time.

Open Water Swimming Gear

It’s helpful to have a wetsuit for open water swimming, especially if you live somewhere where the water can be cold. Wetsuits work by trapping a thin layer of water between your body and the suit. Your body warms this small amount of water and you stay warm.

Besides keeping you warm, wetsuits also make you faster by making you more buoyant. They’re especially beneficial for weaker swimmers who aren’t naturally as buoyant.

When choosing a wetsuit, make sure it fits well.

If your wetsuit is too tight, it can feel restrictive to swim in, and if it’s loose, it will let in too much water and make you less buoyant. It’s most important to look at how well the wetsuit fits between your shoulders and crotch. The length of the arms and legs isn’t as important, and they can actually be trimmed if they’re too long.

Another important piece of gear for open water swimming is your goggles.

Sometimes you will be looking into the early morning sun as you swim, so it can be helpful to have a pair of darker, tinted goggles. Make sure they fit and stay on well, since you won’t be able to stop and adjust them! At most races, you’ll be given a swim cap that you need to wear, but it doesn’t hurt to bring your own cap just in case.

Race Strategies

Before the race, make sure you understand the swim course. Which buoy do you swim towards first? Do you need to stay on the right of left of the buoys? And what can you sight if the buoys are hard to see?

You’ll also want to warm up before the start. Do some easy swimming for a few minutes. Or if you can’t get in the water before the start, swing your arms in circles to warm up.

Next, think about where you want to position yourself for the start of the race.

You have a few choices. If you’re a beginning swimmer or not as comfortable with open water yet, start in the back of the group. This way you can start out at your own pace, and you won’t have other athletes swimming over you. You can always pick up speed as you go.

If you’re a confident, good swimmer, you can start in the front of the group. You’ll have the most people around you, but also the shortest path to the first buoy.

Another option is to start out to the side of the group. This can give you smoother water and less people to swim around, and won’t add too much distance.

When the race starts…

Make sure to sight often enough that you can swim straight and not add any extra yards. Also, remember that the buoys may not be laid out in a straight line.

For example, you might swim a long straight stretch marked with several buoys. If they aren’t in a straight line, it’s more efficient to aim for the last buoy in the line than swim straight towards each one.

Another strategy you can use in open water racing is drafting.

When you draft, you swim close behind someone else to stay in their draft and cut down on your resistance going through the water. You can swim faster than normal at the same effort. But, make sure not to touch the other swimmer’s toes. It’s annoying and you might get kicked! And you still need to sight – don’t trust that the person you’re drafting will swim straight.

As you’re nearing the end of the swim…

think about what you’ll do to start transitioning when you get out of the water – goggles off, unzip wetsuit, cap off, etc.

Keep swimming for as long as you can, even as the water starts to get shallow. It’s faster to swim than to try to run through the water. When your fingers start touching the bottom, then you can stand up and run.

Congratulations… you just finished the swim!


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Triathlon Tips: Countdown To Your First Race

Getting ready for your first triathlon is exciting!

It’s also a sport with lots of equipment and a bit of planning involved. There are some things you can do leading up to the race that will make you feel more prepared and give you a better experience.

Here are some tips for two days before the race all the way through race day morning. Don’t worry about following every instruction exactly in order – just use this to get some ideas to remember that will help you out before your race.

Two Days Before Your Triathlon

Two days before the race is a good time to pack your race bag. You can wait until the day before, but for your first race, or even the first race each season, it’s helpful to have some more time to round everything up.

You may want to have a packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything. Some of what you pack will depend on your preference. Here’s a sample list of what you may need:

The essentials:

• Race belt and pins (for attaching your race number)

• Bike and bike computer

• Bike pump

• Pre-race breakfast

• Swim cap and goggles (two pairs, in case they break!)

• Bike shoes

• Directions to the race

• Helmet

• Running shoes (or racing flats)

• Sunglasses

• Sunscreen

• Race suit (and maybe an extra just in case)

• Towel

• Water bottles

• Wetsuit

• Race nutrition (sports drinks, gels, etc.)

• Spare tube for your bike

Some helpful extras:

• Electrical tape (for taping gels to your bike or taping your timing chip strap closed)

• Sidewalk chalk (to mark your place in transition)

• Black sharpie (for doing your own body marking if the lines are too long – just make sure it matches everyone else’s)

• Personal stuff like hairbrush and extra hair ties, deodorant, ear drops for after the race

• Toilet paper

• Body glide (so your wetsuit won’t chafe your neck)

• Timing chip strap (if you have your own)

• Hat or visor

As you race more, you’ll figure out what works for you and come up with your own list.

You may also want to give your bike a good cleaning if it needs it, and check it over to make sure everything is working well. Two days before the race is also a good time to make sure you get a good night of sleep, since the night before the race you might not sleep as much.

The Day Before The Race

Depending on the race and your travel schedule, you may be able to check in for the race the day before. This way you can minimize what you’ll need to do on race morning. You may be able to get your race number, timing chip, and swim cap the day before and have some time to get everything ready. At some races you’ll also have a number to attach to your bike, and you can do this the day before too.

If possible, check out the course the day before.

Do a pre-race workout on the course, like a short, easy swim and ride. You don’t want to do too much the day before, but a short workout to feel good and stay loose can help. You can drive the rest of the bike or run course (if it’s on roads) if you want to check it out.

You’ve probably heard about having a high-carb dinner before a race.

You do want to have a good dinner with enough carbohydrates along with some lean protein and vegetables. But, you don’t need to go overboard and eat a much larger dinner than usual. The day before the race also isn’t a good time to experiment with new foods.

Eat foods that you’re used to throughout the day, and keep drinking water to stay hydrated. Then, try to get as much sleep as you can, since you’ll likely be up early the next morning.

The Morning of Your Triathlon

Plan on arriving at the race about an hour and a half before it starts. This should give you enough time to get everything ready and warm up before the starting gun goes off. However, for some big races it can take more time to get from the parking area to the transition area, so you may need to allow for more time.

Eat a good breakfast before you get to the race or on your way there. Ideally, it should contain mostly carbohydrate with a little protein and fat, and should be something you’ve practiced eating before workouts.

Make sure to drink some water or sports drink and stay hydrated while you’re getting ready for the race.

Once you arrive at the race is also a good time to top up the air in your bike tires if you haven’t already. (But don’t put in more air than the maximum amount listed on your tires.) Then get checked in if you didn’t get to the day before.

Your race bag should have your swim cap and race number that you’ll need to wear. Sometimes there are additional numbers for you to put on your helmet and bike. If it’s not in your bag, you may also need to pick up a timing chip and strap. Then, you’ll need to get body marked. Your race number and possibly your age or division will be written on your arms and sometimes legs.

Next, you’ll rack your bike in the transition area.

Sometimes there is a specific area for you to rack your bike that will go along with your race number. If not, you can choose where to rack your bike. Find an open place where no one else has set down their belongings.

Make sure you’ll be able to remember where you left your bike.

Count how many rows there are until yours or find a landmark near your bike. If you’re on pavement, you can also draw something with sidewalk chalk near your row to help you find it.

It’s a good idea to do a short warm up before the race.

Do some easy running and biking. You can do some strides or pick-ups (going fast, but not all-out, for a short amount of time), but don’t do too much hard running or biking. Save your energy!

Your warm up is also a good time to check out the course again. Make sure you know which way you’ll be going when you leave transition and that you can find your bike coming into transition from both directions.

Also, check out the end of the run course so you’ll know when you’re getting close to the finish!
Make sure everything is set out how you want it in the transition area. Think about what you’ll need for each transition and set it out where you can easily get to it.

You can set your shoes on a towel or transition mat that you can stand on to absorb some of the water after the swim. Have your helmet, sunglasses, race belt and number, and anything else you’ll need to wear like a hat or visor set out.

You’ll also want to get your nutrition for during the race ready.

For a sprint distance or shorter race, you should be fine with just water or some sports drink. For an Olympic distance triathlon, you’ll need to take in a little more when you’re on the bike. Gels are easy to eat. You can tape them to your bike frame or put them in your pockets if you have them.

As you’re getting everything ready, there may be a cutoff time when you’ll need to exit the transition area. Put on some sunscreen, grab your wetsuit, cap, and goggles, and you’ll be ready to head over to the start of the race.

Put your wetsuit on and check out the layout of the swim course.

Figure out where you want to position yourself for the start and which buoys you’re going to sight. If you can, try to get in the water for a few minutes for a short warm up. But make sure you get out of the water in time to line up for the start.

You’ve done everything you can now, so relax, be confident in your training, and have fun!


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Creatine For Endurance Athletes, Does It Work?


Creatine is relatively new to the performance supplements arena, having its first known usage in athletics in 1993. Since then the number of creatine studies have increased, but a lot of questions still remain un-answered.

Creatine is a substance found in dietary meat and fish, but is also created in your liver, kidneys and pancreas. It is stored in muscle tissue in the form of creatine phosphate, a fuel that’s used mostly during maximum efforts of up to 12 seconds and to a lesser extent efforts lasting a few minutes.


The amount of creatine produced by the human body is not enough to boost performance…


but scientists have found that by supplementing your diet for a couple of days, certain types of performance are enhanced.

In order to get an adequate amount of creatine from your diet, you would have to eat up to 5 pounds of rare meat or fish every day! Taking creatine as a supplement appears to be effective in increasing stored creatine for most working class athletes.

A few years ago scientists from Sweden, Britain and Estonia tested creatine supplements on a group of runners. Following a loading period, the runners ran a 4 x 1000 meter interval workout at max effort.

Compared to the pretest performances, the creatine supplemented runners greatly improved their combined 4000 meter times by an average of 17 seconds, where as the placebo control group slowed by 1 second.

The advantage the creatine runners experienced, increased as the workout progressed. In other words, the creatine group experienced less fatigue and were faster at the end.

Be aware though, that a few other studies using swimmers and cyclists have found no improvement in performance from creatine supplementation in repeated short anaerobic efforts.


Try creatine for yourself and let us know how it goes

There is still not a lot known about creatine supplementation, but the benefits are showing to be greatest for maximising gains from short exercise bouts, for example interval and hill repeat drills.

Some athletes believe that it reduces body fat, but it may only seem that way since the body weight increases due to water retention as fat stays the same. Body weight gains have been in the range of 2-5 pounds.


Creatine does not directly build muscle tissue

Instead it provides the fuel so more power training is possible within a given workout session, therefor stimulating muscle growth

The use of creatine for endurance athletes is still up for debate. The best times to supplement for an endurance athlete are during the maximum strength weight training phase and the higher intensity build phase of a training program.

Those that are low in force and power qualities seem to benefit the most at these times. It is best to avoid using creatine in the peak phase when water weight gains may be difficult to shed before high priority events.

About 20 – 30% of athletes who take creatine report no measurable physiological changes. Vegetarians may benefit the greatest from creatine as they typically have low levels due to their diet.

Most studies have used amounts such as 20 – 30 grams of creatine a day taken in 4 – 5 doses during a 4 – 7 day loading phase. After a loading period, muscle creatine levels can be maintained at high levels for 4 – 5 weeks with 2 grams taken daily.

Dissolving creatine in fruit juice appears to improve absorption. In these studies not all athletes experienced an increase in muscle creatine levels despite taking high dosages.

According to scientists involved in creatine studies, there is little health risk since it is filtered from the blood and puts no extra workload on the kidneys. Scientists do know that once you stop short term use your natural production of creatine is restarted.

The only well documented side effect is the addition of body weight during the loading phase, which soon disappears. A greater concern is that creatine may give you a false positive in a urine test for kidney problems.

There have been stories of muscle spasm and cramping in power athletes using creatine on a long term basis, perhaps due to lowered concentration of electrolytes in the muscles.

Talk with your health professional before supplementing with creatine.



5 Half Marathon Tips That Most People Neglect

The 5 half marathon tips below are so simple and effective that if you follow them, you WILL have a better run on the day.

Half Marathon Tip 1: Train With Your Nutrition

On race day you want to be able to reduce unknown variables. You are going to need to take on a variety of nutrition before and during the race like carbohydrates an electrolytes. Don’t be trying out new foods on your big day. Try different gels, drinks, bars whilst you are training for your event. The one’s you find that work the best for you are the ones you want to be using on race day.


Half Marathon Tip 2: Rest Is Best

In the 2 weeks leading to your event, nerves can start to get the better of you. “Have I done enough?”, “Can I cram in some more efforts?” are questions that almost everyone asks themselves at this point. But with 2 weeks to go, your goal is to be the freshest you can be. Come race day, you will be looking to have the best FORM possible. FORM is calculated by a simple formula


The more you train the more you fatigue. The fitness you have obtained so far will stay with you providing you do taper specific workouts that minimise fatigue. Your goal is to be as fresh as possible on race day


Half Marathon Tip 3: No New Gear

The idea of a brand new pair of running shoes or a brand new running shirt is tempting to reward yourself on race day. But going back to Tip 5, you don’t want to introduce any unknown variables. New shoes may give blisters and new shirts may give nipple chafing. Decide what clothing you plan on competing in and be sure to do plenty of training to make sure they are comfortable and won’t affect your performance on the day


Half Marathon Tip 4: Pace Yourself

Once you red line it and hit the wall, your race will spiral into disaster as you not only try to recover but lose a lot of time doing it. Start out conservatively, try and run the second half of the race faster than the first. This is known as negative splitting, and will have you finishing the event strong, confident and in a much better time.


Half Marathon Tip 5: Don’t Take Yourself To Seriously

Lastly the most overlooked half marathon tip. You’re a working class athlete, not an Olympic athlete. Training and racing should be fun and enjoyable! Whether you come last or do a personal best, I guarantee those closest to you will be equally as proud. Train hard and consistently and do your best, but remember there is more to life than running and it is no substitute for quality family time.


Do you have some really easy and effective half marathon tips? Share them below to help other working class athletes be at their best on race day.

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Threshold Heart Rate – A Cyclists Magic Number

working class athlete threshold-heartrate-a-cyclists-magic-number

What if I told you YOU had a magic number?

A number that made you place better in races?

A number that made you break all your own STRAVA records?

A number that defined your optimal performance?

Well that number exists, and you are only a 20 minute ride away from finding it out!

This number is more commonly known as your THRESHOLD HEART RATE

In the simplest non scientific form I’m going to try and explain what this threshold heart rate is…

THRESHOLD HEART RATE is the heart rate at which your body can no longer clear out the lactate you are producing quick enough, basically causing your performance to drop significantly.

In other words…


I like to picture a small boat with a hole in it. The water coming in is being bucketed out as quick as possible by the people in the boat. But there is a limit to how quickly they can bucket out the water. There comes a tipping point where the amount of water entering the boat is too much for the bucketeers and the boat begins to fill up with water to the point where it sinks.

Your threshold heart rate is that point where your body can no longer bucket out all the lactate you are producing.


How do I find my magic number?

I’m glad you asked, it’s dead easy…

All you need is a heart rate monitor and bike computer (standard kit these days). You will need a preferably flat or inclined course that allows you to ride hard for a full 30mins without having to stop, rest, brake, freewheel or change your pace too often.

What you need to do after a warmup is complete a 30min INDIVIDUAL time trial. This must be done by yourself and does not require aero kit. This is about testing YOUR engine for 30mins to see what happens.

For the entire 30mins you must race as hard as you can. Do not look at your HR as this is insignificant at this point and may have an affect on your results.

Once you have finished, be sure to do a cool down and go home and upload your data.

You now need to find the AVERAGE HEART RATE of the LAST 20 MINUTES of your time trial.

If you are not sure how to do this, simply hit your LAP button 10mins into the time trial and then hit it again at the 30min mark (the end of the effort). This will give you the average HR for that LAP.


What do I do with my magic number now?

Now you have your threshold HR, we can quickly calculate your other ZONES. These zones are simple brackets of heart rates that when training in them, have different effects on the body and performance. These Zones are as follows:

Zone 1- Less than 85% of your magic number

Zone2- 85% to 89% of your magic number

Zone3-  90% to 94% of your magic number

Zone4- 95% to 99% of your magic number

Zone5a- 100% to 102% of your magic number

Zone5b- 103% to 106% of your magic number

Zone5c- More than 106% of your magic number

Once you have calculated these, most modern bike computers allow you to enter your zone ranges so now you can train and race by zones.


It takes a long time to raise a sunken boat…

Have you ever been in a race or trying to set a hot time up a climb, and you go DEEP into the red zone? Once you are there it feels like you just can’t recover and you suffer all the way through the effort.

This is because once you ‘overheat’, your performance drops and it takes a significant amount of time to recover before you can start laying the power down again. By then your opponent has vanished into the distance and you’re struggling to stay balanced on your bike let alone breathe.

The best thing you can do is avoid going deep into the red.

Avoid sinking the boat

Most of the time, backing off the pace momentarily to stop your HR from soaring past your magic number will have you back on race pace FAR QUICKER than if you bury yourself and blow up. Trying to raise the boat from the depths is always going to take longer than stemming the flow momentarily to let your bucketeers catch up.


What about MAX HR?

What about it?

It really is a useless number. Especially in terms of cycle racing and training.

It’s a number determined by many genetic variables and is a very inaccurate method of determining effective training zones. THRESHOLD HR really is the magic number…


Get out and find your number

If you haven’t already calculated your magic number get out there and do it! Get it over with.

Sure it’s 30mins of pain, but you will then be set up and ready to take your riding to the next level.

Don’t forget to revisit some of your favorite STRAVA segments when you’ve worked it out…

You might be surprised 😉


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