Monday, 24 January 2011

A little pre-training visualisation.

Visualisation is a powerful tool and can be used to develop new skills or refine exsisting ones. Before this week's technique swim session on Sunday have a look at this video of Jono Van Hazel (Australian Olympic swimmer) on the Swim Types website. Watch it over and over! During the swim session when we ask you to swim 'steady and smooth' or 'hold excellent form' this is the image that should appear in your head. Say to yourself (or out loud if you prefer) 'Just like Jono' as you push off the wall. Go on try it out at least once!

For those of you that join me on Tuesday for the interval session or on Sunday for the long run this week is a 'recovery week'. That means we are dropping the training load down to allow the body to recover and adapt to the last three weeks of training. So our interval session will be 5km max and the long run no more than one lap of Victoria Park from London Fields and return (~8km). Remember the recovery week is as important as the last three weeks of training to improving your performances during the race season and preventing injury. Do not be tempted to do a little more just for good measure!

Most of the London League events are now open. Remember in order to get maximum points we must have five athletes in an event, one must be a female and one must be a vet (+40) or we could have a vet female. These will be great events to continue to build the team spirit within the club (something I think we have done well already) and these races can be a great way to develop race skills such as pacing and transitions etc. We need to enter at least four races including one triathlon. I am signed up for the Dragon Slayer Duathlon and Thames Turbo Sprint Triathlon already.

Two of our club members last week asked me what determines someone's ability to run fast over a given distance. Given that we are triathletes and run anywhere from 5km up to 42km and beyond I will focus on determinants of long distance running performance. Now this is the kind of topic that entire books are written about. I will just scrape the surface here.

The neuromuscular system plays and important role. The recruitment and synchronisation of muscles during running affects both the ability to absorb impact forces and produce propulsive forces. This affects running efficiency and can be trained. This is one reason I insist that everyone performs running drills. It is also why later in the year, as we approach race season, we will intergrate more speed work into our sessions.

There are also physiological determinants of long distance running performance. VO2 max is the maximum capacity of an individual's body to transport and use oxygen during exercise. VO2 max is actually a relatively poor predictor of endurance performance in athletes of similar ability. That is not to say that improving your VO2 max will not improve your running performance. VO2 max can be improved with specific training. This will come later in the year as it is very high intensity work.

'Lactate threshold' is the point at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood during sub-maximal exercise. Lactic acid has an inhibitory effect on a muscles ability to function during exercise resulting in decreased performance. Lactate threshold occurs at a higher % of VO2max in well trained individuals. Lactate threshold can be improved with specific training. The faster you can run at lactate threshold the faster your race pace will be in race distances from a 5K to the marathon. This is what our interval sessions are aimed at.

Running economy is the amount of energy needed to run at a given pace. If you have good running economy, you use less energy to run at a given pace than someone with poor running economy. Running economy can be improved with training. This improvement occurs primarily at your training pace(s). This is one reason it’s important to do some training at and faster than race pace. Over striding can cause poor running economy, but research shows that most runners naturally choose their most economical stride length. Explosive weight training or plyometrics have also been shown to improve running economy.

Psychology also plays a role. Some people can and do push themselves much harder than others in training and racing. Again this 'mental toughness' is something that can be trained using various methods.

Well I hope that was helpful. Rest assured that we are working towards improving your running performance this year. See you tonight and if not see you in two weeks! Don't forget to get a crew together for the London League events. Tim (LFTC coach)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Some feedback from last Sunday

Thanks to our growing team of coaches I managed to capture some video of a number of you swimming on Sunday. This week we will work on a few of the 'swimming faults' that I observed and discussed with Karl and Scott. Here is a list of a few of the faults and the effect of them on your freestyle stroke:
  • Unilateral breathing (breathing to one side): This can cause asymmetries in your stroke. You will often see top swimmers and triathletes breathing to one side in certain situations such as when racing. What you don't see is that they will practice breathing to both sides and be comfortable breathing to either side so they can adapt their technique when necessary. What we often see in a habitual unilateral breather is a tendency to over-rotate to the breathing side and under-rotate to the non-breathing side and obvious asymmetry in the water that can lead to other problems such as swimming related shoulder pain and a loss of ideal body alignment.
  • Cross-over: A cross-over occurs when the hand enters the water and then crosses over the mid line of the body. This is a common cause of swimming related shoulder pain. It also makes it very difficult to set up for a good catch and pull because of the compromised position of the shoulder. In addition a cross-over can cause other problems such as a scissor kick, a loss of good body alignment and over-rotation especially during breathing.
  • Dropped wrists and elbows: As the hand enters the water and extends the wrist drops, the fingers and palm come up and you effectively apply the brakes. An effective catch and pull requires you to keep your elbow high during these phases of the stroke. Dropping the elbow and pressing down on the water lifts you up at the front end and causes your legs to sink. This is something we often see when someone goes to take a breath during freestyle. Have a look at the videos from Swim Smooth here for examples of dropped wrists and elbows.
  • Dead spots: The most likely place you will find a dead spot is just as the arm extends after hand entry before initiating the catch. This pause causes a loss of rhythm and often means that you will then rush the catch and pull phase. A dead spot is often followed by the elbow dropping and the arm pressing down on the water.
  • Breath holding: A common problem that can be observed in swimmers of all abilities. This can be a major cause of anxiety and tension created by the feeling of being quite literally 'breathless'. Breath holding can also be a cause of 'sinky legs' by increasing buoyancy at the front end of the body. The body will act just like a see-saw and the legs will then sink.
  • Loss of ideal body alignment: As mentioned above the loss of good alignment can be the result of other faults such as unilateral breathing and cross-overs. It can also be a primary fault. Your proprioception (awareness of your body in space) is important here. Someone that moves their head from side to side with every stroke may be completely unaware that this is what they do. They may also be completely unaware that this causes their whole body to follow and we see the classic 'snaking' through the water.
This weekend is our 'splash and dash' threshold session but not before we work on the areas above. Fins and pull buoys will be required so please don't forget yours.

A few of the club members are getting together for a ride on Saturday morning. The plan is to meet at Hackney Downs station at 8.30am (there is a train at 8.48am). Take the train to St Margarets in Hertfordshire which takes 30 minutes, cycle 25 miles towards Cambridge ...tea break and then back to St Margarets. An out and back route of about 50 miles. If people are interested they could just turn up or preferably let us know through the blog or facebook before Saturday.

Mixing politics and sport can be both good and bad. If the outcome is either positive for the sport or results in a positive political change I don't have a problem with it. So here is my brief foray into politics. If you eat fish, and let's face it there are many positive health benefits that result from including some fish in your diet, then you should watch Hugh's Big Fish Fight. A three part documentary about the fishing industry and the EU laws that govern it. It is pretty shocking stuff! Raising awareness can only be a good thing so that you can make informed choices. If you feel strongly about the subject you can join the Fish Fight here.

See you Sunday morning! Tim (LFTC Coach)

PS. I have entered the Dragon Slayer Duathlon, Thames Turbo Triathlon Race 1 (both London League events) and the New Forest Middle Distance Triathlon. Come join me in the club's racing strip for the London League events!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A must read for this week.

Our first session for the New Year was a good one. It is great to see everyone as enthusiastic as ever about improving their fitness through the sport of triathlon and also testing the limits of their fitness by signing up for more challenging events later in the year. By the way, the girls lead the boys by four to one in the New Forest Middle Distance Triathlon September 25th.

The long run seemed to be popular with a good number of you. We will continue with this option on a Sunday morning provided it is what you would like to do. This week we will keep to the same distance. Those faster finishers could complete and extra lap of the small side of Victoria Park to allow the other runners to catch up. That way no one will lose their friends eh Minky?

Having three coaches on deck during the swim was fantastic. It meant that we were able to pay more attention to each individuals technique. I hope you found the feedback useful. The majority of faults occur during breathing. Paul Newsome from Swim Smooth wrote a great blog last week about the common faults that occur when breathing during freestyle swimming. There are some very good pictures demonstrating these faults. It is a must read for everyone. Click here to have a look. I also spent the weekend watching Swim Smooth's Catch Masterclass DVD. I think it is well worth a look and will help you understand the importance of the catch to your stroke and the drills we teach to improve it. Paul's rendition of the Muppet's theme song at the end is gold!

We have been invited as a club to take part in the Mike Penman Memorial 10km race on April 9th by Victoria Park Harriers. Just turn up on the day and register. The race kicks off at 2:30pm from in front of the Victoria Park Harriers club house. This would be a great event to test your running fitness if you are not planning to compete in either the Ful-On Duathlon on April 9th or the Dragon Slayer Duathlon on April 10th.

This week is our long swim. It will be based on your CSS times if you did the time trials pre-Xmas. It does not matter if you missed that session we can give you an idea of the intensity we are after on Sunday. We will spend the first part of the session refining your technique. I expect that you will all have fins and a pull buoy by Sunday.

See you Sunday! Tim (LFTC Coach)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

What's happening in the New Year

Welcome back everyone! I hope you have had an enjoyable break over the Xmas New Year period. As of this week we are back to our regular training sessions. Run at Well Street Common tonight at 7pm and our fitness and technique development swim and run at London Fields Lido on Sunday at 8am. The technique development swim at Kings Hall will start next Wednesday at 7:30pm. Apologies if you got the earlier version of this blog that said it started tomorrow. My mistake!

This week we will introduce an alternative 'long run' on Sunday. This is really for those people who attend the interval session on Tuesday. If you do not already have an interval session in your weekly training plan I suggest you continue to take part in the intervals on Sunday. Everyone will warm up together and then we will split into 'long run' and 'interval' groups.

The long run will be approximately between 8km and 12km excluding the warm up. The 'long run' group will exit London Fields at the Broadway Market end, turn left and cross the pedestrian crossing onto Sheep Lane. We'll continue down Sheep Lane crossing Andrew's Road to get onto the canal path. Here we turn left and continue along the canal path until we enter Victoria Park at the first entry point.

If you would like to run 8km you will run one lap of both sides of Victoria Park and then return to London Fields Lido via the same route we took to get to there. If you would like to run 12km you will run two laps of both sides of Victoria Park and then return to London Fields Lido via the same route we took to get to there. We will build on the distance/duration of the run, use different routes to keep it interesting and will include some hill training as well in coming weeks.

The downside of this kind of run is that we won't all finish the session together. What we hope will happen is small groups will form that will cover the same distance at a similar pace and we will all then meet for coffee later. The warm up will be 'coached' but once you leave on the long run it becomes a 'group run' and you will be responsible for yourselves.

This week's swim session is biased towards technique. Bring those pull buoys and fins that you asked for at Xmas! I would like to see a 100% strike rate with everyone bringing their own kit. There will be some sculling just in case you thought we left that behind last year. If you have been struggling with the sculling watch this video and see if you can mimic the technique on Sunday. There will of course be a fitness element as well so take it easy on Saturday night!

This article about Chrissie Wellington is an interesting read. Click here to have a look. See you later this week. Tim (LFTC Coach)