Thursday, 30 December 2010

The video doesn't lie!

There was an impromptu club session on Wednesday this week for those lucky enough to have the day off. I finally got my 'camera mounted on a mop' out and videoed a number of our clubbies swimming at the Lido. It was a very interesting session with a range of swimming backgrounds from absolute beginner to experienced open water swimmer.

Four out of five, including those swimmers at both ends of the experience spectrum, displayed the same problem...breath holding! The only one that didn't we had managed to video earlier in the year and he has made great progress since. Why is breath holding a bad thing? The build up in CO2 in the lungs causes you to feel breathless. Also many coaches will say that the increased buoyancy in the chest if held will cause the lower half of the body to sink. There are some coaches that argue this point and encourage breath holding and then an explosive breath out to increase buoyancy. I personally fit into the former category.

Some other faults that were common amongst the group were a cross-over of the leading arm which can cause all sorts of problems including shoulder injury, scissor kicking, ineffective catch set up and poor body alignment. The elbow of the leading arm dropping especially when breathing was also common. As the swimmer was about to take a breath they would push down into the water with the leading arm, keeping the arm straight and lifting the head out of the water. As a consequence of this we would often see over-rotating of the body especially when breathing towards the swimmer's weaker side and the lower half of the body sinking. These are areas we will focus on in the New Year as the majority of the club will benefit from improving the above aspects of their stroke.

There are people setting some hefty (but achievable!) goals next year. The New Forest Middle Distance Triathlon is on September 25th. This would be a great event for those looking at stepping up the distance next year from the standard (Olympic) distance triathlon. The girls lead the boys 2-0 so far with both Sarah Allen and Sam Hart signing up already. Can the girls outnumber the boys in this event? Let's see!

The North Norfolk Triathlon is three weeks before and this is an ideal time to compete in a standard distance race as final preparation for the middle distance race. If you have not competed in the North Norfolk Triathlon check out this video. Click on the link at the top of the menu on the left side of the screen. You'll see Jeremy exiting the water, Sebastian taking off on the bike, me crossing the finishing line (the black and white streak!) and a few of us including Guy, Seb, Sarah and me chatting post-race.

Looking forward to seeing you all again January 9. Have a happy New Year! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Monday, 27 December 2010

Tuesday 28/12 evening run cancelled!

Believe it or not there is still ice on the paths in Well Street Common plus it is a bank holiday so instead of running multiple laps of a small common in the dark I would encourage you to get out, get some vitamin D from the sun and try an alternative run session tomorrow. A few of us are heading out to Epping Forest mid-morning to get nice and muddy on the trails. We'll be back to the usual Tuesday night Well Street Common interval session next week.

In case you were thinking of picking up a new bike for the New Year London Fields Cycles is having a sale starting Wednesday 29th December. Also some of the London League events are now open. Both the Dragon Slayer Duathlon and the Thames Turbo Sprint Triathlon on April 10th and 25th respectively are open. You can Also enter the Victoria Park Open 5 Mile event on March 26th. It would be great to get as many people as possible from the club to sign up...go on do it!

Have a happy New Year! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Monday, 20 December 2010

Tuesday run cancelled!

Well Street Common is still looking very much frozen and with temperatures unlikely to rise significantly in the next 24 hours I can't see the situation changing. So tomorrow's run session is cancelled.

Thank you to all those who braved the elements on Sunday for our last session of the year. It was a great morning with Gabriel putting on a fantastic spread once the snow fights stopped.

I'll be putting together the itinerary for La Santa together over the break. Any suggestions about how much training and how much chilling out you are keen for would be much appreciated.

Need a little motivation? Check out Part 1 of the NBC's coverage of the 2010 Ironman World Championships here.

Have a great Xmas everyone! See you Tuesday 28th for a run if you are up for it. May be a long one or a trail run a bit earlier in the day? Tim (LFTC Coach)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The last Sunday session of the year!

So we completed a couple of time trials last Sunday. I will email you the results by the end of the week. What you can do is use the results to help make your own swim sessions more structured so you get the most out of every session. CSS is an acronym for Critical Swim Speed. It's an approximation of your lactate threshold speed. Lactate threshold is the point at which lactate starts to accumulate in your blood when exercising giving you that horrible (but very satisfying) sensation of heavy fatigue.

We found your CSS by doing a couple of swim tests over 400m and 200m. It's not exactly the same as lactate threshold but it will be within a couple of seconds per 100m, which is plenty accurate enough to guide your training. Have a look at the 'How to Train Using CSS' section of the Swim Smooth - Training for Swimming web page. There are some challenging sets you might try once a week for the main set in your quality swim session based on your 400m time and swimming at your CSS.

There is snow and icy cold temperatures forecast for this weekend. Unless the Lido is closed the session will be on. We may have to cancel the run if conditions are too slippery underfoot. We will make that call on the day. Some of you crazy people do want to run in the snow however. On Saturday a group are thinking of heading to Epping Forest for a trail run. This is not a coached session just a bunch of crazy people wanting to run in the snow (if it comes). There is a train from Hackney Downs at 8:10am Saturday arriving at Chingford at 8:29am. Too early? There is another train every 15mins otherwise. Obviously if the trains are not running neither will we.

So if you are keen for a trail run leave a message at the end of this blog. Make sure you have appropriate clothing and footwear for a trail run in icy conditions.

See you on Sunday. Tim (LFTC Coach).

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Coaching is testing and testing is coaching

I was at a workshop a few weeks ago looking at athletic development. 'Coaching is testing and testing is coaching' was a phrase that the presenters used a number of times throughout the workshop. During our coached sessions we are constantly testing you in some way. Looking at your ability to perform technique drills, watching your coordination during the run warm-up exercises and seeing how you cope with the main set within each session. It is not formal testing but it is testing none the less.

We do perform formal tests intermittently to check on progress. We want to know if our coaching methods are helping you achieve your goals to become fitter, stronger, faster and technically more proficient. At the same time we can see how your technique changes under a bit of stress i.e. when you are trying hard. This is an essential part of coaching too. So this week we will be testing you during the swim session performing two time trials. Don't be scared! It is just a measure that we can use in another few months to check on your progress and also give you some idea of how you should pace your own swim sessions to gain maximum benefit.

There will be some technique work. Some more sculling (so bring pull buoys) and we will be using fins to help work on body alignment and streamlining. If you have been struggling with the sculling watch this video and see if you can mimic the technique on Sunday. Those swimming trunks are right up there with Seb's best!

See you in the morning! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Remember to warm-up when it's cold!

You may laugh at my structured warm-up routines before we run but with temperatures plummeting a proper warm-up becomes even more important. If we take the Achilles tendon as an example. The Achilles tendon is a structure that is commonly injured in sports involving running and jumping. Paratendenitis is a specific condition affecting the Achilles tendon that results in inflammation of the paratenon which is the tissue that immediately surrounds the tendon. There is an increased risk of Achilles paratendinitis during cold weather outdoor training due to the effect of temperature on the microstructure of the paratenon. If you are interested in why this is I have put the geeky science stuff at the end of the blog.

It may be tempting to skip your warm-up because of the cold conditions and instead just 'get going to stay warm'. You might be putting yourself at risk of developing an injury. You could warm-up indoors by getting on your turbo-trainer or rollers before heading outdoors or dig out your old skipping rope and jump rope to warm-up. Don't forget your running drills to target different areas more specifically in preparation for running. Most can be performed on the spot inside if need be.

You will see to the right of this blog that I have added the events that we plan to compete in as a club. Not everyone will compete in every race obviously but these are the races that a number of you have signed up for already. In addition we may be joining the London League. This would be a great way to support other local clubs and compete as a team. We're not concerned about winning, more about participation, so don't be afraid to join in. Not all the races for next year's London League have been announced. These are the dates and races from this year:

05 Apr - Thames Turbo Sprint Triathlon
18 Apr - Dragon Slayer Duathlon
24 Apr - Ful-On Duathlon
09 May - Morden 6n6 Aquathlon
23 May - Crystal Palace Sprint Triathlon
18 Jul - Hillingdon Sprint Triathlon
14 Aug - Clash of the Tritons Aquathlon
31 Oct Jekyll & Hyde Park Duathlon

2011 dates and races are to be confirmed. The main thing we need to consider as a club is that we can get at least four and preferably five or more club members competing in each event. We must also have at least one female and one veteran (+40 years). A veteran female athlete can cover both requirements. Have a think about it and let us know if you are keen by leaving a comment below or by using Facebook.

Filepe Elias, originally from Itapetininga in Brazil, approached me with a great idea. He would like to run a two week training camp in his home town in 160km southwest of Sao Paulo. To make it worth while the training camp would be about two weeks long. Filepe's home town has great lakes for swimming and rolling hills for cycling and running. There would also be an emphasis on nutrition with locally sourced products and we would participate in local races in the weekend. Planning is in it's very early stages but if you are interested leave a comment at the end of this blog. It sounds like fun to me!

This week's swim session is technique focussed. We will be using both fins and pull buoys so please make sure you bring yours! If you have paddles you can bring those too and we can use them in the session if you wish. The weather is likely to remain cold so feel free to wear your wetsuit or at least consider two swim caps and warm clothing to put on after the session. As long as the Lido is open the swim session will go ahead. The run may be cancelled if conditions are not safe.

See ya, Tim (LFTC Coach).

PS. Geeky science stuff:

The Achilles paratenon membranes are rich in mucopolysaccharides which serve as a lubricant for gliding of the tendon and epitenon. Decreased temperature may increase the viscosity of the lubricant and thereby increases friction and risk for Achilles paratendinitis. This relationship illustrates why 'warming up' before exercising may be important in lowering the incidence of Achilles paratendinitis (Milgrom et al 2003). Want to see what the structure of tendon looks like? Click here.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Well the Saturday ride is looking a little sketchy due to the weather. If there is any chance of ice or snow on the roads I suggest you put it off for another day. I have hit black ice before in this area when out riding with Guy (see previous blog here) and sustained some pretty nasty injuries. The roads in this area are generally not salted or gritted as they are minor roads. Please consider whether it is worth the risk. If in doubt it probably isn't.

Two reasons why you should join the British Triathlon Federation (BTF) if you have not already. Coach Karl and Rob Gratze! Both were recently involved in accidents while cycling. The drivers involved were at fault. Both are getting free legal advice thanks to their BTF memberships. And if you need a third reason you will get cheaper race entry or a refund of £5 when you enter some races as you will have a race licence through your BTF membership and will not have to purchase a day licence. That £5 could buy you your post-race fish and chips at the North Norfolk Triathlon! Oh, reason number four, the BTF were also voted sporting governing body of the year in 2010.

We have had people turning up late to swim sessions recently. You are putting yourself at risk by not completing an appropriate warm up when joining the session late. From a coaching perspective it is also disruptive. Karl has suggested a push up penalty. I think if you are late you should have to buy the coach an almond croissant following the session. Please be at the Lido ready to go through the gate at 8am on the dot and you should be in the water no later that 8:10am.

We are not going to have a centre lane this week again. It does require a little more 'lane etiquette'. Please be aware of your position in the lane while swimming. Swim up the lane close to the lane rope or poolside to avoid overcrowding in the middle of the lane. It is going to be cold on Sunday. You might like to consider wearing two swim caps. Feel free to wear your wetsuit if you have a tendency to get cold or just feel like a bit of a change. This weekend is our threshold session for our higher volume lane. So not much chance of getting cold then! Our lower volume lane will be working on breathing, body position and developing the catch phase of the stroke. Karl has requested you bring watches for the run session. You can use the pace clock in the pool while swimming.

I made a mistake a couple of weeks ago. Matt and Allison did the 10km not the half-marathon event at the Coastal Trail Run Series event on the Gower Peninsula. I was right about Matt only being three minutes ahead of Allison though. You can blame Tim Pratt for dobbing you in!

See you Sunday morning. No late comers please. I really don't want that almond croissant! Not. Tim (LFTC Coach).

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Social, prizes, club ride...a mixed bag!

It was great to see on Friday night that the social side of the club is well and truly alive and kicking (see photos here for proof). I was reminded on Friday by Alex that she too completed the Nice Marathon. Nice work Alex Adames! You did 3:12 didn't you Alex? 'Chicked' Dan by 3mins if I recall correctly. As it was Friday night there is every chance that I have not recalled that correctly. The night ended with a group hug and Amanda 'Minky' Wilmer making a speech that would have made a grown man cry about what a fabulous bunch of people the club has attracted. Are we putting 'Minky' on your trisuit Amanda?

Just in case you missed the social on Friday and didn't make the training session on Sunday Karl and I gave out a few "coach's awards" to a number of club members who have made great progress over the past year. Laura Turner received the Most Improved Swim Award; Sebastian Arroyave received the Most Improved Bike Award; Russell Webley received the Most Improved Run Award and Lindsey Smith received the Coach's Triathlete of the Year Award. There are any number of people who could have received awards. We had people completing their first ever triathlon, people stepping up a distance for the first time and people showing great strength of character when injury prevented them from training and competing as they had hoped to. Big ups to you all!

A few club members are heading out for a ride on Saturday morning. The route they will follow can be seen by clicking here. The plan is to catch the 8:48am train from Hackney Downs to St. Margarets (Herts). The ride starts and finishes at St. Margarets train station. As it is an out and back course you can choose how long you ride for. I suggest you take the route via Stocking Pelham as written in the second comment in the link above. Some of us, who have done the ride a number of times, turn around at Ickleton which is an 85km ride in total. Not everyone will be riding this far obviously. If you choose to take part you must be completely responsible for yourself in terms of food, hydration, route map, spares/puncture repair kit, appropriate clothing etc.

A little feedback from today. The new lane set up worked well but there are a few things we could do to improve it. When swimming up the outside of the lane keep close to the lane rope/poolside to avoid forcing everyone towards the centre. When tumble-turning take care not to push off straight back into someone who may be right on your toes but rather push off on an angle. If someone taps you on the toes let them pass you when you get to the end of the pool. Take care when passing, check the way is safe first and if you are nearly finished your rep/set think about holding back a little to avoid having to pass at all.

I had someone say to me today that they were concerned they were holding people up. Don't worry if you feel this way. Our sessions are self-paced. You swim, bike or run at your speed. If we ask for an 80% effort don't be tempted to work harder to keep up with a faster club mate. Save the competition for the races. This brings me to my final point and that is I am concerned some of you may be pushing yourselves too hard at this time of the year. I realise that a number of you have set some big goals for next season including Ironman distance events over the summer but that does not mean you need to be putting in huge miles or double run sessions at this stage of the year. We may not be able to give you personalised training programs at this point but we can give you advice or point you in the right direction. Don't be afraid to ask.

Phew, that's it from me. See you Tuesday or Sunday or both. Tim (LFTC Coach)

Thursday, 18 November 2010


A reminder that we celebrate the end of our 1st year in Pub On The Park this Friday!

We'll be there from 7ish

There will be prizes!

And, as it's a pub, there's a bar!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Some fine performances

There have been some massive achievements by members of the club in recent weeks. Scott McKenna and Dan King both ran 3hr 15min marathons in New York and Nice respectively. Well done lads! That is a great time for a marathon. Scott also completed his Level 1 Triathlon Coach qualification a couple off weeks ago. Seb Balcombe will be completing the same qualification this weekend.

Matt 'the Fish' Tilbrook, Allison 'the Fishette' McLean and Tim Pratt ran the half-marathon distance Coastal Trail Run Series event on the Gower Peninsula. Matt snuck in 3mins ahead of Allison. You'll get him by the end of the series Allison! Christina ran the 10km event (that actually measured more like 13km). Nice work! Christina even made it to training on Tuesday night. She's pretty tough. If you haven't heard about the series take a look here. They are very well run events in some beautiful locations.

On Tuesday night at our regular run session, on Well Street Common, for the first time ever at any of our training sessions the female athletes outnumbered the male athletes! Triathlon is a very inclusive sport but if you look at the number of males versus females participating in events there is still quite a difference. We would like to think we are doing our bit to close the gender gap by providing the right training environment to attract both sexes to the sport and it looks like it might just be working.

This Sunday's swim session will be more fitness based so bring a good set of lungs. Last week we had a 100% strike rate with people bringing fins and about 80% bringing a pull buoy. The Lido's supply of pull buoys is dwindling so please do your best to bring your own. There are a number of people on the waiting list for the session so if you can't make it please let the club know. Those people on the waiting list might like to come along at 8am, swim in a puplic lane but follow the club's session plan and then join us for the run.

This month if you buy 22oTriathlon you get a free indoor cycle training dvd to keep you entertained while on the turbo trainer or rollers when the weather turns really nasty. Could be worth a look at least.

It's the club's first shindig this Friday night at the Pub on the Park so make sure you get along there. You just might pick up one of the coach's awards! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sunday's technique session

It was a great swim session this morning. From a coaching perspective I saw some very positive changes in front crawl technique in a number of you that will allow you to swim faster and more efficiently. There was also some very positive feedback from you guys with regard to the lane set-up and structure of the session. Just in case you would like to repeat it in your own time here it is for future reference.

Warm Up:
  • 2x 50m front crawl + 50m breast stroke
Main Set:
  • 2-3x 50m kicking on back with fins arms extended overhead + 50m front crawl
  • 2-3x 50m kicking on side with fins (2x breaths then roll to opposite side) + 50m front crawl
  • 2x 150m swim as 25m scull #1 with pool buoy into 25m front crawl, 25m scull #2 into 25m front crawl, 25m scull #3 into 25m front crawl
  • 2x 100m swim as 25m doggy paddle into 25m front crawl
  • 2-3x 100m single arm front crawl with fins (roll to opposite side every 25m)
  • 2x 300m front crawl (no fins, no pull buoy) with emphasis on technique i.e. staying long and streamlined with a good catch and pull
Cool Down:
  • 50m front crawl, 50m back stroke, 50m front crawl, 50m back stroke keeping it nice and easy
The session above is slightly longer than the one we did today. If you swim in the technique lane choose 2x where you have the option. If you swim in the high volume lane choose 3x where you have the option. The 2x 300m at the end are optional. It is quite nice to see how your stroke feels after completing all the drills. Hopefully you feel like you are flying along! Not sure what a good catch is all about? Swim Smooth have some great videos and information on their website. I mentioned 'putting the brakes on' to a number of you and you can see what I mean in one of the videos. Click here if you would like to check it out.

Don't forget the club social this Friday at the Pub on the Park from 7pm. See you then. Tim (LFTC Coach)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Anyone who visits the lido will recognise the fantastic prints of cold swimmers, including our coach Tim.

If interested, the pic's are being auctioned for charity, info below...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A little more about winter training.

How many times during a post-race interview when asked, 'What has been the big difference in your training that has lead to this success?' have you heard an athlete say 'I had a really good winter'. A good winter? What do they mean? A good example would be Alistair Brownlee. In 2009 he had great preparation over winter, building his fitness and remaining injury free. He was unbeaten in every race he entered in the ITU World Championship Series. Contrast that with this year when he developed a stress fracture in his leg over the winter and his winter training suffered as a result and he had a much less consistent year. There were other complications such as illness during the competition period and he did make a remarkable comeback but he was not quite the same unbeatable athlete of the year before.

Winter is all about trying to turn your body into an economical fat burning machine that is resistant to injury. This means performing the majority of your workouts in the 'aerobic zones', building strength and improving technique across all three disciplines. When I say strength I mean not only muscular strength but also the strength of bones, tendons and connective tissues. These tissues will adapt to the stress being placed on them through appropriate training and recovery. Winter training is not just about going long and slow though. At the same time we do not want to lose all the speed we established in the previous race season so some faster paced sessions are still beneficial. These are the sessions we perform as a club on Tuesday and Sunday. Building speed at this stage of the year is not the priority.

The BTF uses five 'training intensity zones' based on a percentage of maximum heart rate (% MHR). The majority of your training over winter training will be in Zone 1 which is up to 65% MHR and Zone 2 which is between 65 and 90% MHR. If you have never performed a test to establish your MHR you can use a Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). This is generally expressed on a scale of 6-20. If you want to know a little more about RPE click here. Zone 1 is between 10-13 (light to moderately hard) and Zone 2 is between 13-16 (moderately hard to hard). After you have had a break and are ready to return to structured training most of your sessions should be in Zone 1 and then moving into the lower end of Zone 2. Later, as your fitness improves more of your sessions will be performed at the upper end of Zone 2. It can get a lot more technical than this if you are interested!

I am on a course this Tuesday and may not make the run session at Well Street Common. There will be people keen to train so you can still run as a group. Here is the plan: Warm up: 1km easy jog Technique drills: perform over 15-20m with a jog back recovery and repeat each 2x
  1. Mini skips - small hop on one foot then the other
  2. Heel flicks - high cadence picking heels up under the buttocks
  3. High knees - high cadence bringing knees up to hip height
  4. Big skips - just like you did as a kid but going for height and length
Main set: Remember 1km is one loop of the usual course
  1. 1x3km @ 10km pace + 2mins recovery
  2. 1x2km @ 5km pace + 90sec recovery
  3. 1x1km @ 3km pace
Cool down: 1km easy jog and static stretches

Not everyone agrees with the winter base training philosophy I have outlined very briefly above. I would be interested to hear your thoughts so feel free to leave comments.

See you Sunday if not Tuesday. Tim (LFTC Coach)

Saturday, 30 October 2010


To celebrate the clubs first anniversary, the launch of our new membership scheme and because it's a Friday(!) our next club drinks will be at Pub On The Park on Friday 19th November, from 6pm.

The pub serves food if you fancy some dinner. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 28 October 2010


Hi all,

Top coach and friend of the club Terence Collins is launching a new swim course, he is offering a 10% discount to members of LFTC. Info below...

The next 8 week swim technique course starts on Monday, 1st November and will be held in the Barbican at the City of London School for Girls from 7 to 8 pm (

It will focus on improving freestyle (front crawl) stroke technique via drills grounded in the body of knowledge offered by Sports and Coaching Science. Additionally, we will film your stroke in order to increase your ‘stroke self-awareness’ which will comprehensively increase your understanding of what you need to do to improve your swim technique.

The cost is £120 - 10% discount if you are a member of the Serpentine Running and Triathlon Club, London Fields Triathlon Club or Tri London and it runs for 8 consecutive weeks (Nov 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th and Dec 6th, 13th, 20th).

If you require additional information please do not hesitate to contact him, moreover if you want to book a place on this course, please confirm as soon as possible.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Do as I say not as I do!

'Do as I say not as I do' - not the best coaching philosophy you might say but there is more to this story so read on. It had been a perfect Saturday starting with a dip in our beloved Lido, a tasty lunch at that great British institution that is the British pub, followed by a flat white and millionaire's shortbread at one of London's new cycle friendly cafes called Look Mum No Hands on Old Street.

We were riding home and I was behind Sarah (I often find myself behind Sarah when out for a ride!). An aggressive driver in a van pulled out to get past us as we approached a give way sign and then suddenly pulled back in narrowly missing Sarah. Having seen my girlfriend nearly taken out I hit the side of his van with a closed fist as I passed. Not enough to do damage of course but just enough to let him know what he did was unnecessary and dangerous. He proceeded to chase me down, blocked me with his car forcing me to stop, got out of his car hurling abuse and gave me a shove in the face. A passerby by, who saw the whole incident, stepped in and the guy got back into his van and took off just as aggressively.

In hindsight it was a silly move on my behalf. My actions were very unlikely to change the way this guy treats cyclists. A polite tap on the window and a 'Please give cyclists a little more room sir' might have been a better option. So next time I will take a more sensible approach and I urge you to do the same. There is little point in being an aggressive cyclist towards an aggressive driver. You will undoubtedly come off second best. It might earn you a punch in the face and sometimes punches do a lot more damage than is intended. In a similar situation a friend of mine was set upon by three guys who were in a van and ended up with his glasses embedded in his face.

Anyway, back to the good stuff. Some of you should definitely consider trying to qualify for Great Britain as age group triathletes to compete at the World or European Championships in both triathlon and duathlon. You can see the list of qualifying races by clicking here. There is more information from British Triathlon with regard to what you must do in order to qualify on their website. Just click here to have a read. Go on give it a go! We will do our best to help you get there.

This Sunday sees the return of the long aerobic swim session. You may have noticed a pattern to our Sunday swims. There is a three week cycle, technique session one week, a long aerobic session the next and a threshold session the following week. Hopefully you are completing one or two swims on your own as well. At this time of the year I suggest you use the technique and long aerobic sessions we give you when you are swimming on your own. A threshold session every second week will help maintain the speed endurance you developed over the spring and summer. We will still have one lane devoted to technique development and in particular body position, alignment and body roll.

Hopefully this will be the last blog in which I have to finish by saying 'learn from my mistakes'. See you Sunday. Ride safely (and calmly)! Tim (LFTC Coach)

PS. Pull buoys, fins, Sunday. Enough said.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

What to do over the cold dark months

Well the UK triathlon (and aquathlon) season is all over. A few of you may have decided to give it one last bash and compete abroad in warmer climes but the remainder of us will probably be having some sort of off-season before beginning winter training. So what should you do in the off-season and over the cold dark months of winter?

It is important to let both your body and mind recover from the stress of training and racing over the summer months. This is a good time to allow niggling injuries to settle, to enjoy forms of cross-training and to spend a little more time with friends and family who may not have quite the same level of enthusiasm for triathlon as you do. It's not necessary (or desirable) to stop swimming, biking and running all together but a short period of unstructured training at low intensities and low volumes is a good way to recharge the batteries. But don't forget the principle of 'reversibility' - the fitness you worked so hard to improve since we started the club back in January will eventually be lost if you don't do something to maintain it.

It is easy to allow technique to take a backseat during the race season. However, the off-season and winter is a great time to make this your focus. We hope to offer you all a chance to have your swim stroke filmed and analyzed. This will allow you to focus on areas of weakness within your stroke so that come next season you will be swimming with greater confidence and efficiency.

Perhaps you found your position on the bike a little uncomfortable towards the end of a long hard ride. Subtle changes to your position on the bike might make all the difference. Getting your position and pedalling technique assessed by a qualified bike fitter may prove to be money well spent if it means greater comfort and improved efficiency next season. Remember to only make small changes and make a note of any change you make. Give your body some time to adjust to the new position before making further changes.

Any changes made to running technique must be subtle and again you must give plenty of time for your body to adapt. Running is the discipline most likely to cause an injury. Even small changes in technique can significantly change the loads being placed on the body. Through the practise of running drills that focus on a specific element of technique and then by integrating these changes into short low intensity intervals you can make technique changes while minimizing the risk of injury.

The winter is not the time to be posting PB's! Unless of course you are planning on racing over the winter by taking part in duathlon, running or cycling or you have signed up for Ironman Lanzarote in March (Guy, Club Captain - Go man go!). Training too hard over the winter may in fact lead to poor performances over the summer months due to over-training or possibly injury.

There are not too many people out there who are blessed with the ability to perform well across all three triathlon disciplines. Perhaps you felt as though you struggled with one discipline in particular over the race season. The winter is a great time to focus on that discipline a little more so that you become a well balanced triathlete. Treadmills and turbo-trainers may bore you to tears but the uninterrupted training where you can accurately control your workload can be hugely beneficial.

Strength training over the winter will reap benefits over the summer. Building strength can help protect you from injury when the workload does increase closer to the race season. Every individual will benefit from different strength and conditioning exercises. Pay particular attention to those parts of the body that you may have injured in the past and associated areas. By that I mean you may have sustained a knee injury but you must not forget the vital role of the foot and ankle and hip and pelvis in optimal knee function. Seeking the opinion of an expert in the management of sports injuries would be a good idea if you have an injury that is failing to settle as expected.

Joe Beer and 220Triathlon magazine have paired up to provide free autumn and winter training plans. If you would like to take a look just click here for autumn and here for winter. We hope to put our own plans in place for the club once we know what you all would like to do next season as a club. Feel free to post your comments here! There will be more info about winter base training to come so stay posted.

On that note, this week's swim session is technique focussed, so bring your pull buoys, fins and paddles. We'll be focussing on body position, body roll and the catch and pull phases.

See you Sunday at 8! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Sunday session is back!

Just a reminder that from now on you get to sleep in on Saturday morning! Our regular weekend session is now on Sunday at 8am. The tradition of coffee and tasty treats post-training will continue down Broadway.

Also, for any new comers, remember to bring your fins and if possible a pull buoy to get maximum benefit from the session. We will be using both this Sunday so don't forget to pack them in your kit bag! Click here to see my previous blog for more details on fins, pull buoys and paddles if you are interested

In Lane 1. we will be keeping the focus firmly on technique with a little conditioning work thrown in for good measure. Lane 2. will be performing a mixed pace set to with plenty of variation to keep things interesting.

See ya'll Sunday! (Tim LFTC Coach)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

What's happening this weekend?

It's another big weekend for the sport of triathlon. OK, so the racing this weekend may lack the intensity and prestige of the London Fields Triathlon Club Aquathlon but the Ironman World Championships might be worth a look. It is going to be a fantastic race. It is quite possible that in the women's elite race British women might fill all three podium places! Unfortunately there are no British men considered favourites but there are some great European athletes looking to stop Craig Alexander (Australian) winning three in a row. You can watch the race live on IronmanLIVE.

So this weekend we are going long too! Our regular lane 2 swimmers will be completing a long swim to help build that endurance base heading into winter. Lane 1 regulars will continue to build on front crawl technique with an emphasis on body position and body roll. Remember your fins and pull buoys it will make the session much more beneficial.

I won't be around this weekend so have a good one. See you next week! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


We are also famous!

Monday, 4 October 2010


Congratulations to everyone who took part in the event on Sunday!

The full results can be seen here

Well done to the following winners:



Pictures online soon

My thanks to all those who took part, all our marshalls and referee, Tim & Karl (the LFTC coaches) and Seb, Guy and Rob (event organisers)

Here's to the next event!


Thursday, 30 September 2010

An exciting weekend ahead!

This weekend marks another milestone for the London Fields Triathlon Club. We host our very own event in the form of an aquathlon on Sunday. Thank you to all those who have sacrificed taking part in the event to help run it. The weather is not looking great but battling the elements is all part of the wonderful sport of triathlon!

For those club members that are competing and put their name down for a club tri suit you are in luck! The tri suits arrived today and we will be giving them out on Saturday morning. Our club captain Guy has done a fantastic job designing the tri suits and liaising with Spiuk to have them made just the way we wanted them. Nice work Guy!

The swim session this Saturday will see us focusing on technique rather than fitness so that there will be no problem with you doubling up training on Saturday and racing Sunday. Remember your pull buoys, fins and if you have them paddles.

Keeping in short and sweet this week. See you Saturday. Might even wear my new tri suit poolside! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

What's happening this Saturday?

Only a few weeks out from the club's first event we thought we should put you through your paces! We will be timing you over 400m and 200m. These times will provide a bench mark from which we can measure improvement and we will also use the times to determine your Critical Swim Speed (CSS) which we will use in future sessions to increase your speed endurance. Don't be afraid because it doesn't matter one bit how long you take but it will allow you to see how much you improve over the winter by getting out of bed and braving the cold to join us for a swim on Saturday morning!

We will be mixing in some drills so please bring your a pull buoy if you have one. No need for fins this week but if we have a little extra time at the end of the session you might like to use them to practise some of the drills we have introduced you to earlier in the year. We will be practising the Scull #1 drill. It is a great drill to help develop that all important effective catch. Some of you have found this drill a little difficult. A common problem is 'dropping of the wrists'. Watch this video of Paul from Swim Smooth performing the drill correctly and then incorrectly with dropped wrists. See how much propulsion he can get (note he is not kicking) with just the small sculling action of the arms and hands. Look what happens when he drops his wrists... he goes backwards!

See you Saturday at seven. Tim (LFTC Coach)

All new Wednesday Intro To Tri swim sessions

After much blood, sweat and tears, the club has managed to organise a weekly Wednesday swim session aimed at newcomers to triathlon. The aim of the session is to develop swimming technique and fitness for those whoa are new to triathlon and/or who may be lacking confidence and experience in the water. I must emphasise that the Wednesday session has a much different aim to the Saturday morning session: if you have previously turned up on a Saturday morning, only to be put off by the standard of swimming, then this session could be for you!

The first session is on Wednesday September 29th (next week) and starts at 7.30pm. The cost is £6 and the venue is the Kingshall Pool in Clapton ( If you are interested in attending, please let us know by emailing

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

North Norfolk Triathlon - Race weekend review

It was a weekend of firsts for the club (and a few thirds but more on that later). It was the club's first organised trip away to race. Fourteen club members made the trip North to Wells-Next-the-Sea. Many of the triathletes that came away were competing in either their first triathlon ever or their first Olympic distance triathlon. It was the first year of the inter-club challenge between North Norfolk Triathlon Club and London Fields Triathlon Club. However the trip was not without incident!

Everyone arrived safely in Wells and once checked into the luxurious beige accommodation i.e. caravan park, we headed off for a lap of the bike course. The bike course really is quite spectacular. The highlight being the section that takes you into the beautiful Holkham Estate passing the impressive obelisk and then turning in front of the very grand looking Holkham Hall to then leave the estate via a short climb and continue the bike course.

We opted to eat out Saturday evening. I set a fine example of what to eat and drink the night before a race opting for the haddock gouchons with chips i.e. gourmet fish and chips, with a glass of red wine and them promptly finished off Russell's dinner with Herfried's help. It was then back to the beige caravan for some preparation of race kit for the morning's big race.

The race started at 9.45am. The idea being that on the swim by the time we turned the far turning buoy the tide would be slack. North Norfolk has some of the biggest tides in the UK. The outward swim leg was soooo fast with the tide assisting us towards the turning buoy. I saw one competitor get a little carried away, forgetting to sight and swimming straight into a moored boat! After turning the far turning buoy the tide was anything but slack. It was more like swimming in an endless pool that someone had cranked up to full throttle for a laugh! I am pleased to say none of our triathletes panicked and everyone made it back to transition safely. Lindsey had one of the fastest swim times of any female in the field.

I emerged from the water with bloodied hands. I'm still not sure exactly how that happened. I think almost all of us, due to the fact we were running at such great speed I'm sure, slipped on the timing mat. Herfried Waha hit the the deck with a thud that made the crown gasp in horror. Thankfully, he got straight up unfazed by the mishap and carried on.

I am quite sure everyone loved the bike course. It is hard not to in such an amazing setting. Guy, Club Captain, smoked it and had the fastest time of the day from the club. Jeremy I am sure had the fastest time of anyone in the field on a hybrid. Rob Boulding was also flying but he took a tumble at the turn around point in front of Holkham Hall cutting up his hands and grazing his right shoulder and arm. He soldiered on. Krystal was charging on her mountain bike too.

The run is an out and back course on the North Norfolk Coastal Path. It is fast and flat with the majority of it being off-road. Amanda, who was the runner in the team made up of Seb (swim) and Sarah (bike), was flying. She posted a 40min 40s 10km split and apologised as she passed the lead female explaining that she was in a relay team and not taking over the lead. Everyone did a great job on the run and after crossing the line stayed around the finishing area to clap and cheer as the rest of our club members finished.

So congratulations to everyone that took part especially those completing their first triathlon or first Olympic distance triathlon. You will certainly find easier races so you can be very proud of your achievements. London Fields Triathlon Club won the inter-club challenge. We now have a very impressive looking shield at least until next year. Guy Holbrow was third in the veteran men's category. I was third in the senior men's category.

The day concluded with a much deserved feed of fish and chips on the quay overlooking the historic Wells Harbour. A great weekend. Thank you to all those who took part and helped with transport and buying food etc. Hopefully many more of you will come along next year to defend the shield!

Tim (LFTC Coach)

Monday, 6 September 2010


Entry form here

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Quick transitions

It is relatively easy to take time out of your competitors and off your PB by practising your transition from swim to bike (T1) and bike to run (T2). To take the same amount of time out of your swim, bike or run is much more difficult...but still worth aiming for! Coaches love the saying "perfect practice makes perfect". When it comes to making your transitions faster it is absolutely true. Here are some tips that I hope you find useful.

Before the race:
1. Look for landmarks in transition that will help you find your place in transition.
2. Walk through transition noting bike exit and entry points and the run exit.
3. Set up your transition area placing your equipment out in a familiar pattern.
4. Put your number on (pinned or on a race belt) under your wetsuit.
5. Place nutrition for the bike (if it is sealed) in the pockets of your tri suit under your wetsuit.
6. Use Body Glide or similar on areas where your wetsuit tends to get stuck when pulling it off.
7. Have your bike in an appropriate gear.
8. Attach your shoes to your pedals (if using clipless pedals) and have rubber bands holding them in the right position i.e. horizontal with cranks also horizontal.
9. Use elastic laces in your running shoes.
10. Use talc in your shoes for ease of foot entry. Some people also use Vaseline around the heel.

Transition One
1. You can open the neck of your wetsuit to allow water to flush through as you exit the swim.
2. Open the velcro neck tab of your wetsuit with your left hand.
3. Pull down the zip with your right hand.
4. Pull the right shoulder down with your left hand and remove your arm.
5. Pull the left shoulder off with your right hand and remove your arm.
6. Remove goggles and cap (some people prefer to do this earlier and leave the goggles and cap in the arm of their wetsuit)
7. When you reach your transition area pull the wetsuit down as far as possible i.e. to the ankles, and kick you feet out.
8. Fasten bike helmet. You must do this before moving your bike to avoid a penalty.
9. Remove bike from transition and run to 'mount line'. If you mount your bike before the line you will be penalised.
10. Mount your bike and place your feet in your shoes once you have some momentum and flat ground (if shoes are already attached to bike).

Transition Two
1. Remove your feet from your shoes while still on the bike as you near transition.
2. Dismount just before the dismount line. If you dismount your bike after the line you will be penalised.
3. Rack your bike in transition. You must do this before moving your removing your helmet to avoid a penalty.
4. Pull on your running shoes.
5. Remove your helmet.
6. Grab extra nutrition if you are taking it.
7. Leave transition turning your race belt around as you leave, putting nutrition into pockets if you want to and pulling on a hat if you choose to run with one.

Sound easy? Give it some practice and see how fast you can get moving from one discipline to the next. Let's see if we can have the quickest transitions at the North Norfolk Triathlon!

See you bright and early Saturday. Bring your wetsuit if you want some time in the water wearing it and don't forget those fins and pull buoys! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

How should you pace your triathlon run?

An interesting recent study looked at the best pacing strategy to adopt during the initial phase of an Olympic distance triathlon run. In summary, ten highly trained male triathletes completed three individual time-trial triathlons (1.5-km swimming, 40-km cycling, 10-km running) in a randomised order. Swimming and cycling speeds were kept constant for all three triathlons and the first run kilometre was done alternatively 5% faster, 5% slower and 10% slower than a control run. The subjects were instructed to finish the 9 remaining kilometres as quickly as possible at a free self-pace.

The run that started with the first kilometre being 5% slower than the control run resulted in a significantly faster overall 10-km performance than the 5% faster and 10% slower runs. The results showed that the running speed achieved during the first kilometre of the triathlon is crucial to the performance of the run as a whole. The authors suggest triathletes would benefit by running the first kilometre of the run at a pace 5% slower than their 10-km control running speed.

So does that mean that this is the strategy you should employ in your next race? Not necessarily. The study looked at ten highly trained male triathletes performing an individual time trial. This is different to a race situation in which other factors, such as the influence of fellow compeditors, may alter your chosen pacing strategy. However if you are only interested in racing the clock and are not concerned about your finishing position it might work well for you.

In a study by Tucker et al. looking at the pacing strategies for the 5000-m and 10,000-m running events, times for each kilometre were analyzed for 32 (1922 to 2004) and 34 (1921 to 2004) world records. The analysis showed the first and final kilometres were significantly faster than the middle kilometre intervals. Quite a different strategy to the triathlon run in the study above. The slowing in the middle of the race allows for maintenance of an 'energy reserve' for the final push to the finish line. This is probably the strategy you see most often in an elite Olympic distance triathlon too. Certainly by those who leave T2 in the leading pack. The chase pack just have to go hard from start to finish in the hope of catching the leaders.

Pacing strategy during exercise is regulated by a complex system that balances the demand for optimal performance with the requirement to defend homeostasis i.e. keeping the internal body environment in a steady state. There are many external factors that influence your pacing strategy. These factors are likely to be different with every race e.g. weather conditions i.e. hot versus cold, the nature of the course, energy levels of the day, other competitors. You can't do much about the weather or other competitors but practising nutrition and hydration strategies in training and knowing the course will certainly be advantageous when it comes to pacing. Try different pacing strategies in training and low priority races to see what you prefer. Half the fun of participating in endurance sport is learning what your body is capable of!

See you Saturday. Long weekend...Bring it on! Tim (LFTC Coach)

PS. "The Runner's Body" is a great book if you want to learn a bit more about how your body responds to exercise and how to improve performance using the latest scientific approaches.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Bike/run brick route

I had a request yesterday to put the Brick bike route up on line, so I’ve created a map in mapmytri.

I couldn’t get the notes working on mapmytri, so I’ve listed a few things here instead:

- Start at Thames Barrier Park, and head out East

- At the island, turn left up and over Conaught Bridge (check out the dock on the left hand side, this is the London Tri dock)

- At end of the road, turn right to go down onto Royal Albert Way and keep going

- The first set of traffic lights are here, along with rumble strips – keep to the left of the road to avoid the strips

- At the Gallions Reach roundabout there are 2 sets of traffic lights, keep the right hand lane on the approach so you can go straight across onto Armada Way

- There’s a set of traffic lights here, but approach slowly and they should turn to green by the time you get there

- Keep going until you see the big warehouses, at this island, turn around and head back along Armada Way, across Gallions Reach roundabout (more traffic lights) and along Royal Albert Way (traffic lights and Rumble Strips at 7k)

- Instead of going up the slipway, and turning left over Conaught Bridge, go under the roundabout (more rumble strips) to go into the Excel Centre

- At the island take 3rd exit, this will take you along the road that runs at the back of Excel

- Follow the road around until you get to traffic lights, bit of a pain here, but aim up to the A1011, Silvertown Way, and another set of lights

- Turn left and follow the road all the way back to Thames Barrier Park (2 sets of lights I think)

The route works out about 12k. Not the most light free route, but the route that I use to train and there are decent sections with no lights to let you get up a decent speed to try out those tri bars.

Usual bike rules for everyone though. This is an open road with traffic and rules of the road, so make sure your bike is roadworthy, you must wear a helmet and you must follow rules of the road.

One last point, if you’re a member of the British Triathlon Federation, you will have insurance not only for when you race, but also for when you’re out training should the worst happen.

Hopefully the route will make sense, but happy to answer any questions. Karl (LFTC Coach)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Get yourself some toys for the pool!

I probably don't need to tell you that swimming front crawl or freestyle is a technical skill. It requires the coordinated movement of all four limbs and the spine to produce a smooth series of strokes that blend together seamlessly to propel you through the water. You might have found that endless hours of just swimming up and down the pool has not resulted in significant improvement. A technical skill such as swimming front crawl (FC) often needs to be broken down into it's component parts, with each part being practised and refined, before bringing it all together again. This is where the use of swimming tools can be very useful.

A pull buoy is not just for improving the strength of your stroke. The added buoyancy that the pull buoy gives to your legs allows you to focus on what is happening with the front end of your stroke i.e. with the arms and trunk. This is why we might ask you to use the pull buoy when practising drills designed to improve your catch and pull or body rotation.

Using fins is not cheating! Fins are very useful for improving your ankle flexibility and kick efficiency. The added propulsion that fins give you also allows you to focus on what is happening with the arms and trunk and to practice streamlining and body roll drills more effectively. Fins can also be used for 'over-speed' training. This type of training gets your body (and brain) used to swimming faster than normal, a form of neuromuscular training, that can result in more efficient movement patterns. Make sure you buy swimming specific fins (not diving fins which are very stiff and long).

Paddles are great for improving the strength of your stroke but there are some paddles that are also designed to improve stroke technique such as the Finis Freestyler Hand Paddles and PT Paddles. The Freestyler's unique shape and 'skeg' design forces streamlined hand entry which lengthens each arm stroke. A longer stroke creates a better pull through, a better hip-rotation, and ultimately increases performance. PT Paddles are shaped to deflect water around your hand, effectively removing the hands from the swimming equation. By removing the hand as a paddle, swimmers have to find other methods of generating propulsion such as using the trunk and keeping a high elbow during the catch and pull and using the forearm. Both these paddles are available through Swim Smooth.

In future sessions we will be using this equipment more and more. The Lido does not have enough pull buoys for the whole squad and they do not have fins. If you really want to make the most of the upcoming swim sessions and improve your stroke please buy a pair of fins and a pull buoy. I think you will find the swim sessions a lot more fun and rewarding as a result.

Nautilus, 197-199 Mare Street, have swimming specific fins. You must ring the bell to enter the shop so don't be put off if the door is locked during normal hours. The Lido has pull buoys for sale at the front counter. So get yourself some toys for the pool!

Well done to all of you who completed the London Triathlon in the weekend! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Tapering for your triathlon

Training for triathlon does place 'stress' on the body and mind (physiological and psychological stress). If the level of stress and recovery is appropriate then the body (and mind) will adapt in a positive way and you will become fitter and stronger.

The main aim of the taper then is to reduce the negative physiological and psychological impact of daily training. In other words, a taper should eliminate accumulated or residual fatigue, which will translate into additional fitness gains leaving both body and mind in optimal condition to perform at your best.

It is sometimes quite difficult for athletes to reduce their training volume as they approach a race. A commonly held misconception, especially amongst novice athletes, is that they will lose fitness as a result. This is not true and a reduction in training volume is vital if you are to perform at your best on race day.

How one athlete tapers for a race will differ from how another athlete tapers for a number of reasons. Race distance and priorty, your level of experience, your training load (high versus low) amongst other individual characteristics will effect how you taper for a race. Here are some general principles about tapering:
  1. With a taper you should decrease the volume of training – but you must maintain your intensity levels. How does this work in practice? Your training volume might go down to 75% two-three weeks out, 50% the week before and maybe 30-40% in race week. If you normally run for 90 minutes, you might reduce that to 75 minutes with two weeks to go, an hour the week before and 30 minutes during race week.
  2. Maintain the frequency of your workouts. If you train five times per week on average you should continue to do this during your taper. Too much of a disruption to your regular routines can disturb things like eating and sleeping patterns and leave you feeling sluggish rather than fresh to go!
  3. Make your sessions race specific. Short brick sessions at race intensity are ideal and give you a chance to practise your tranistion skills. Even simple things like practising slipping your shoes on and off between running and cycling intervals can help prepare you for race day.
  4. Should you do anything the day before a race? This is where individuality comes into play again. Some people prefer to have a day of complete rest two days before the race and 'train' the day before with short sessions at race intensity (and no more!). Others will prefer to do things in the opposite order and have complete rest the day before the race. You must discover what works best for you.

All the best to those competing this weekend at the London Triathlon! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Tuesday run interval sessions

Those of you who have been attending the Tuesday night interval sessions on a regular basis may have noticed a pattern. We are working to a four week cycle. Each week we perform a different session, week 1 is 400m reps, week 2 is 800m reps, week 3 is 1200m reps, week 4 is a compound set where we perform 400m, 800m and 1200m reps within the same session.

The pace for each session remains the same e.g. your goal 5km race pace or your 10km race pace for the season depending on the distance of the event you are training for. What changes each week is the rest period which is 30% of the work interval. For example is you are running each 400m at 1min 30sec pace the rest interval for week 1 is 30sec, week 2 is 60 sec and week 3 is 90sec. Week 4 will be a combination of those.

The way that we are progressing the sessions is by adding 400m to each session every two weeks. For example we began performing 10x400m. Now ten weeks later we are performing 15x400m, 7x800m + 1x400m and 5x1200m. Obviously this progression applies only to those who have been attending from the start. You can of course join us at any time and just perform fewer reps to avoid overloading yourself.

So next week will be 5x1200m with a 90sec recovery if your pace is 1min 30sec per 400m. If you are faster or slower than this you will have to work out your own recovery period and obviously not everyone is up to performing 5 reps and may choose to perform 3 or 4 depending on your level of fitness or if you are tapering for a race.

Best of luck to all those competing over the next couple of weekends. See you August 3rd back down at the track!

PS. A number of the club members are still meeting at the track next Tuesday to run together. Andrew, our resident PE teacher, will take the warm and cool down.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Adapting your stroke for open water

On Saturday I mentioned adapting your stroke for open water swimming. Even the best wetsuit will limit your flexibility around the shoulders compared to swimming without a wetsuit. Try adapting your stroke to work with the wetsuit rather than against it. The high elbow recovery used in pool swimming can fatigue your shoulders by working against the material of the suit. Instead, adopt a slightly straighter arm recovery technique and swing your arms over the top.

When swimming in rough water it can be even more beneficial to be able to modify your stroke to suit the conditions. Choppy water conditions can suit a more choppy stroke. This allows you to maintain good rhythm. A long stroke can result in you being pushed around by the waves disrupting your rhythm.

If a picture is worth a thousand words a video must be worth a whole lot more! This video of Jodie Swallow, although she is swimming in a pool, demonstrates a number of technical aspects of Jodie's stoke that make her one of the best open water swimmers in triathlon. To watch the video click here. Now Jodie swims with a stroke rate of about 90 strokes per minute. Not very many people can swim with such a high stroke rate and indeed such a stroke rate may not suit you. But there are still a number of lessons we all can take from Jodie's technique. Rhythm, timing, body position, body roll, effective catch and pull...the list goes on!

Have a great week. Take it easy those of you competing in Dextro Hyde Park this coming weekend. It's important to go in to your race feeling fresh and ready to roll. Tim (LFTC Coach)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Rules for Triathletes

After running two small brick sessions I’ve noticed that there’s a bit of a grey area of knowledge when it comes to rules. If this season is going to give you your first BTF (British Triathlon Federation) sanctioned race, then you’ll be following their rules. Most are common sense, but there are a few that could catch you out and in fact should have prevented a few of the group from taking part in the brick sessions.

I’m not going to go through all the rules and regulations, there are a lot and they can all be found on the BTF web site (link below). I’ve just listed a few below that I’ve been asked about and a few that it’s easy to get undone by.

Before the race
1.5 “All persons unable to produce a current race licence [eg BTF membership] at race registration shall pay the appropriate day membership fee [membership + insurance] which is non-refundable” For those doing several races and lots of training, this has got to be taken up. BTF membership is £40 for membership and this covers your day licence and insurance, and, also insures you for when you’re training, and, gets you a copy of the British Triathlon Annual Handbook and Trinews (the BTF magazine) – a Bargain in my opinion.

1.7 “Copies of the [race] rules must be made available to all competitors a minimum of two weeks prior to the event” This sounds obvious, but please, please, read the information sent to you when you get your race pack. Every race will have slightly different rules, eg whether tri bars are allowed, whether fixed gear bikes are allowed (generally not), etc. Read, re-read and read again.

8 – Banned Equipment “Any equipment that acts as an impairment to hearing or concentration is prohibited from use during an event (including transition). This includes ... mobile phones (which should be switched off in transition), personal stereos and MP3 players” For anyone used to taking part in 10k, ½ and full marathons, I’m sure you’re used to wearing your iPod and listening to your favourite Take That track to get you around the race. These are strictly forbidden in triathlon, and the marshalls/referees are pretty hard on people who ignore the rules. The penalty can range from a verbal warning, through a time penalty, through to disqualification. There are a huge list of activities that may result in a big DQ on your results – again the rules book shows these.

21.4 “Competitors must take responsibility for knowing the technical and competition rules and abide by them” Ignorance is no defence. And don’t think that because you’re not members you don’t have to abide by the rules. Each race you take part in has a mandatory day membership, so you WILL be a member and you WILL follow the rules.

9.2 “A wetsuit may consist of up to three separate parts. The wearing of wetsuit leggings only, gloves and/or socks is not permitted” This means that those of you who get cold toes are going to have to get used to it. It’s tempting to wear the Orca or Blue Seventy swim socks, but they’re not allowed in a race, as they’re seen as an unfair advantage. Unless you have a peripheral vascular disease and have an exemption, then prepare for cold toes!

9.4 “The minimum temperature for a standard distance swim (1500m) is 12.5degC” Yes 12.5 degrees, this is the main reason we keep saying to get out into open water and experience the cold.

9.6 – Temperatures where wetsuits are worn. See the rules book for this, but I’ve had a few questions as to when you would or wouldn’t wear a wetsuit. For a standard distance, if the water is below 14degC, then you must wear a wet suit, above 22degC, they are forbidden. Between these temperatures, they are optional.

23.5 “Competitors must mount their cycles ... outside the transition area” Check where this is for your race, in fact check your entire route for the race, especially distances from leaving the water back into transition and the distance from the bike rack to the mount/dismount lines. Some races may have 4-500 m runs in these transitions – be prepared.

23.7 “Competitors must not interfere with another competitor’s equipment in the transition area” I’ll leave this to your imagination!

11.2 – Cycling equipment, there are some exacting standards here that apply to the configuration of a bike, most ‘standard’ road bikes will fit. But there are few ‘gotcha’s, for instance, they must measure at least 24cm from the ground to the centre of the chain wheel axle (bye-bye Bromptom!). Front disc wheels are banned, and “wheel covers or disc wheels are allowed on the rear wheel only for non-drafting events”, “there must be a brake on each wheel”, “both wheels must be classified as free wheels” (ie no fixed gear bikes” and “handlebars and tri-bars must be plugged”) (There was one rider this Sunday with a plug missing and one last Sunday. If you are missing a handlebar plug, get it sorted!)

11.3 “Approved cycling safety helmets of ANSI Z90.4, SNELL 890, EN1078 ... must be worn by competitors” This goes for races AND for training (in my opinion), so from now on, for any bike training session, no helmet = no ride, and this is going to be enforced going forwards. I’ve been lenient until today. For races, make sure your helmet has a sticker inside with one of those standards. Also, if the helmet is more than 3 years old I would suggest a new one as they start to degrade. In races I’ve heard of marshals physically snapping old and weak helmets – be aware. (See Rule 11.5)

21.2 “Competitors must ... obey the laws of the land and observe traffic regulations” Sounds obvious, but in any race, unless the race is on closed roads, then you MUST observe the highway code. When we cycled across to Hackney marshes a few weeks ago, several group members felt it wasn’t necessary to stop at red lights. You MUST observe the highway code. Again, penalties will be given to anyone who infringes the highway code when we’re on a group ride whether as a formal ride, or as a ride between two sessions.

24.3 “During the cycling phase, a number must be displayed on the rear”+ 24.4 “During the running phase, a number must be displayed on the front”. You will only be provided with one race number, so please, don’t think of using safety pins. Get yourself a race belt, it will save you time.

26.2 “During the event, competitors are individually responsible for the repair of their machines” Do you know how to change an inner tube? How to fix a broken chain? If not, then practice. I know from personal experience that punctures may be the end of a race – prepare, prepare, prepare.

26.7 “Helmets must be fastened before the competitor’s cycle is moved from its allotted place in the transition area and must remain fastened until the cycle is returned to this position at the end of the cycle section of the race” I hope this is common sense by now?

Draft rules – there are lots of these, and I’m sure you all know what drafting is by now. For a big event, the marshalls/referees will be looking at intention to draft, so basically if you’re coming up behind another rider either overtake or pull back, do not sit on their back wheel. Note this rule only applies during the bike section, there’s nothing to say you can’t draft in the swim or run.

Penalties – during the race the referee’s word is god, whatever he says you MUST follow his instructions. If you wish to appeal after the race you may, but during the race, follow his instructions.

Okay, there are a lot of rules here, and in the rule book are many more. I’m not doing this to scare you or to say that triathlon is just a huge list of rules and regulations preventing you from doing your best. They are all there for safety. In a big race, eg London Tri, with over 13,000 competitors, rules are there for everyone’s safety.

My big thought from this? Take out the BTF membership, read the rules and be a considerate triathlete. We’re all there representing London Fields Triathlon Club and want to show the very best of Hackney.

Finally, enjoy your race! Karl (LFTC Coach)

BTF Rules
BTF Membership
First Timers Guide to Triathlon

Monday, 28 June 2010

This weekends training - A test of your endurance!

I don't mean we are going to be 'testing' your endurance again but both the swim and run sessions involve little if any rest periods. Great preparation for your upcoming events and both sessions should leave you feeling confident you can do the business come race day.

As usual we will start the swim session with some technique drills. It would be great if you could bring your fins and a pull buoy if you have them. Nautilus, the dive shop at 197-199 Mare Street, London E8 3QF, has swim fins at a good price. You have to ring a bell to enter the shop so don't be put off if the door is locked. I have written a blog about using fins to improve your stroke in the past if you want to take a look.

Well done to all those who completed the 5km time trial at Hackney Marshes. There were some quick times posted by a lot of you and I could see the effort that was put in by all. Nice work! It was a hot morning making it that much more of a challenge to keep the pace going. We plan to do this perhaps on the last Saturday of each month to help gauge progress.

Someone asked me after the session about the purpose of sculling. Not only do sculling drills work well as a warm up exercise to prepare your shoulders and arms for the hard work ahead but they are also great for developing a 'feel for the water'. It is quite difficult to develop this feel for the water when practising the full stroke so we break it down into different phases. When you get the catch and pull through right it feels like a smooth flowing action, it feels easy but still gives you lots of propulsion. If one of the early movements is wrong (e.g. dropping the elbow and/or wrist) this then disrupts the water flow and will have a knock on effect with the rest of your stroke.

Dan Bullock of Swim for Tri wrote an article called Sculling for Success in the Triathlete Europe magazine. You can read the article here. It is well worth a read and has a video to show you the various sculling positions and correct technique. Give them a go this week and let me know what you think. You might just find that you beigin to get more propulsion in your stroke with the same or less effort.

Have a good week! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

This weekends training - Developing your catch and a 5km time trial!

A 'strong' catch and pull will make you both faster and more efficient swimming freestyle. You will not only give yourself more time to breathe but you will expend less energy in the water. This will translate into less of that horrible breathless feeling while swimming, a faster swim and more energy for the bike and run.

Some tips for a correct 'catch and pull':
  1. Hand entry: As your hand enters into the water, take care to make sure it does so finger-tips first, lengthening forward in front of the same shoulder with the middle finger pointing the way to the far end of the pool.
  2. Extension: As you reach forward with good body roll make sure you do so with the palm of the hand looking at the bottom of the pool and with the finger tips angled slightly down. 'Putting the brakes on' by dropping the wrist and pushing forward is very common and a habit you want to try to break. It is common in those swimmers that 'over-glide'.
  3. Initial catch: At full reach and without dropping your elbow, you should feel like you are tipping your finger-tips over the front of a barrel (again flexing at the wrist) which will start the catch. At the same time start bending the elbow and pressing back on the water with the forearm in a near-vertical position.
  4. Pull through: Concentrate your efforts on simply pressing water back behind you with the palm of your hand still looking back behind you.

These tips have come straight from the Swim Smooth website. If you would like to read more, look at some pictures and watch some videos to help your understanding of 'the catch and pull' I recommend you take a look.

We will teach you drills this week to help develop your catch and pull. It would be useful if you have a pull buoy or fins to bring them along as we will use them during the drills.

Just a reminder that instead of the usual run session based at London Fields we will be doing a 5km time trial at Hackney Marshes. You must register with Park Run before 6pm Friday. The event is free so don't be shy and join in! We must be ready to start at Hackney Marshes at 9am.

Just out of interest a study by O'Rourke et al (2008) found that caffeine ingestion significantly improved 5-km running performance in both well-trained and recreational runners. So grab yourself a coffee before we go! Ok so the performance gain was not huge but if you need an excuse to have a coffee Saturday morning I have just given you one.

See you on Saturday for a 7am start. Tim (LFTC Coach)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

This week's swim and run sessions - Pacing

Having calculated your CSS last week this week's session is all about pacing yourself during the swim. It is extremely common to swim way too fast at the beginning of a triathlon (especially when it is your first race) and then spend the rest of the swim (and sometimes the bike and run) paying for your efforts. Suffering early in the swim can be a real blow to your confidence if you find yourself breathless and slipping backwards through the field. Improving your pace awareness might mean that your first race is even more fun than expected!We'll practise pacing during our run session as well to ensure you can keep those legs turning over at lightning speed right through the finish line.

This Saturday it would be useful if you had a stopwatch with a countdown timer on it or else you will have to get very good at using the pace clock at the Lido! If your CSS is 2min 10s per 100m set your countdown timer for 1min 5s. Your watch will 'beep' every time you touch the wall for 50m indicating that you are maintaining the desired pace. If you don't have a watch a quick glance at the pace clock will do the trick. Another great little gadget is something call a Wetronome. It is a waterproof metronome that can be used for working on your stroke rate (either speeding it up or slowing it down) or improving your pace awareness with the time interval function. I'll bring mine to the Lido so you can try it out.

If you missed last week's session and don't know your CSS see if you can squeeze in a swim session before Saturday and calculate it yourself. After a warm up swim a 400m time trial and then a 200m time trial. Remember try to keep your pace even throughout the time trials and allow yourself a complete recovery between the time trials. Use Swim Smooth's CSS Calculator to work out your CSS speed per 100m.

Swim Smooth have also developed a great new microsite called Swim Types. Just like an individual's running technique can largely be explained by their physical characteristics so too can an individual's swimming technique. Believe it or not your personality type may also have an effect on your swimming technique. Try to identify your Swim Type by taking the Swim Type Questionnaire. Let me know the result on Saturday and I'll see if I agree with you. I think we have a few Arnie's in the group!

See you bright and early! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

This week's swim session - Breathing and body position

Breathing. Sounds simple doesn't it but how many of you feel breathless when swimming? There are a number of reasons why you might feel breathless. Most of us will automatically assume that it is a lack of fitness that is the cause. However it may be something far more simple like holding your breath or not exhaling properly or a combination of both.

If you hold your breath, trapping air in your lungs, it will increase the buoyancy in the chest. The consequence of this...your hips and legs will drop lower in the water. Why you ask? Just think what happens when you put a life jacket on. You increase the buoyancy around the chest and you will sit vertically in the water. Breathing therefore can have a major effect on your body position. If you missed my blog about breathing last month click here to take a look. We will cover some simple drills to improve your breathing technique on Saturday.

What is an ideal body position for swimming freestyle (front crawl)? If you have not seen Mr Smooth from the Swim Smooth website you should take a look. He is an animated swimmer with an 'ideal freestyle stroke'. See how horizontal he sits in the water. See how the back of the head, upper back and buttocks are at the surface of the water with the heels just breaking the surface with each kick. This position minimises drag and maximises efficiency. We will cover some great drills to improve your body position on Saturday too.

Remember your fins! Have I said that before? Seriously you will find the session much more beneficial (and fun) if you have them. If you have a pull buoy bring that too.

See ya, Tim (LFTC Coach).

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Knee - The area most likely to be injured

Knee pain is relatively common in triathletes. In fact the knee is the area that is most often injured by those participating in triathlon. Which discipline causes the majority of knee injuries? Running. That is not to say that swimming and cycling don't cause knee injuries. They certainly can but relative to running the injury rates a low.

The majority of knee injuries in triathletes are not acute injuries i.e. they are not caused by acute trauma such as a fall, but are the result of cumulative trauma. The injury develops over a period of time due to the failure of the tissues to cope with the load being placed on them over that time period.

The anatomy of the knee is quite complex and although it is interesting I will not go into too much detail today. The majority of knee injuries in triathletes are related to the 'extensor mechanism'. The extensor mechanism is comprised of: the quadricep muscles, the quadriceps tendon, the patellofemoral joint and the patellar tendon. The patellofemoral joint is the joint between the patella (knee cap) and the femur (thigh bone). The iliotibial band could also be considered part of the extensor mechanism and this structure can certainly be a source of knee pain in triathletes.

Common Injuries
The most common knee injuries seen in triathletes are: patellofemoral joint dysfunction; patellar tendinopathy; iliotibial band syndrome and quadriceps tendinopthy. This list is not exhaustive. There are other injuries in the knee that can occur such as ligament sprains and ruptures and various forms of injury to the different types of cartilage in the knee but the four injuries mentioned above are by far the most common.

Patellofemoral joint dysfunction (PFJD) is the term used to describe pain in and around the patella. Abnormal loads on the patellofemoral joint (PFJ) cause inflammation in the tissue (synovium) around the patella. Once the synovium becomes inflamed it can be continually aggravated by certain activities. Pain descending stairs is a common complaint. The area of pain is often described as underneath or around the patella.

Patellar tendinopathy is a degenerative process within the patellar tendon. The result is a breakdown in the microstructure of the tendon. The tensile strength of the tendon is reduced and the tendon is unable to tolerate normal loads. The process is reversible with appropriate injury management. This injury is common in jumping athletes such as long jumpers and if often referred to as Jumper's Knee but it also occurs in running athletes and cyclists. The area of pain is often described as immediately below the patella over the patellar tendon.

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is caused by inflammation around the distal end of the ITB as it crosses a bony area on the outside of the knee called the lateral epicondyle. There is some debate as to whether the pain is caused by friction or impingement. When running the pain tends to occur soon after foot strike when the knee flexes or bends (loading response). When cycling the pain is felt most often during the down stroke when the knee is flexed to around 30 degrees. Pain may also be felt on the up stroke as the knee comes into more flexion. The area of pain is often described as over the outside of the knee.

Quadriceps tendinopathy is a degenerative process within the quardiceps tendon. It is the same process that occurs in patellar tendinoapthy. Again this process is reversible with appropriate injury management. It is the least common of the injuries described in this blog and can again occur with either running or cycling or both. The area of pain is often described as immediately above the patella.

Management Strategies
There are a number of factors that can predispose someone to the development of the injuries described above such as: biomechanical faults e.g. over-pronation of a lack of dorsi flexion at the ankle (ability to bend your knee over toe); soft-tissue tightness both in the the thigh e.g. quadriceps and ITB and associated areas e.g. calf, hamstrings and hip region; muscle dysfunction such as weakness in the vastus medialis obliquus(VMO), the calf, trunk and/or hip musculature such as the gluteul muscle group; training errors such as a sudden increase in training load or poor bike set-up.

When symptoms first appear the RICE regimen can be useful particularly with patellar and quadriceps tendinopathy and ITBS. Like all cumulative trauma injuries it is important to determine the cause. For example addressing areas of weakness in the trunk and hip to reduce the load on the knee or making changes to your bike set up e.g. saddle position or cleat position.

Using a foam roller to release tight structures on the outside or front of the thigh can be very useful. Click here to see examples of these exercises.

Strengthening of the gluteal muscles may also be required. Weakness in the gluteus medius (hip abductor) is associated with various forms of knee pain including PFJD and ITBS. Gluteus maximus weakness is also commonly seen in association with knee injuries. Click here to see examples of gluteal strength exercises.

Strengthening of the quadriceps and in particular the VMO is important to improve 'tracking' of the patella. When performing any quadriceps strength exercise thinking about using and looking at the VMO in a mirror can help activation of the muscle. Click here to see examples of quadriceps strength exercises. A specific form of strengthening has been shown to help patellar tendinopathy. This is called eccentric loading. I won't go into this in detail in this blog as it is already pretty long!

The muscles of the trunk are also very important and a reduction in the strength of the side flexors of the trunk has been shown to be associated with PFJP. Strengthening of the trunk musculature may therefore be required in some people with the knees injuries outlined above. Various abdominal strength exercises, including exercises for the side flexors, can be seen here.

Recognising training errors is very important. Sudden changes in training load such as an increase in mileage or an increase in intensity with the introduction of hill training or speed work or 'over-gearing' on the bike can lead to injury. You should introduce such changes gradually and only when you have built adequate fitness to do so. A training diary should help you recognise such errors and I well thought at training plan should help you avoid them!

Of course everybody is an individual and each individual's injury will have different contributing factors. If you have an ongoing injury you should seek help from a trained professional to help determine the cause of your injury and how to manage it properly. The tips above are an overview of some management strategies for the injuries described above. They are equally good preventative strategies if you do not have a knee injury and want to try remain injury free.

I hope that was interesting and useful. Tim (LFTC Coach)