Sunday, 27 March 2011

Races in March

Well done to all those who competed in races this month. Remember, if you have raced - please let us know as we'd like to pat you on the back (digitally at least)! Simply email the club address with the heading 'RESULT'.

Alex Cooper braved the alarmingly titled Boxhill Ballbuster and took twenty minutes off his personal best! Fantastic!

I took part in the Brentwood half marathon last weekend along with skipper Seb Balcombe, Tim Smith and Laura Turner. Tim finished a fantastic 91st (of over 2000) with a time dead on 1hr 30. Seb came in a minute later, I was another 12 minutes back and Laura popped her head over the line in a very respectable 2hrs 10. Well done all of us!

I thought 6 days would be plenty of time to recover for the Victoria Park Open 5. It wasn't, but I still finished. A good showing from the club saw Ellen Greaves, Colin Staniland, Alex Cooper and Jane Dennyson all cross the finish line with good times - Ellen came 8th in her category, finishing in just 31.40!

Well done to anyone else who raced this month, I can't give a shout out though as you didn't let me know. There's a really busy month ahead with our 1st London League outings as well as our Aquathlon - expect a HUGE report in a months time.

Best, Chris Skinner

Monday, 21 March 2011

Psychology and injury - an interesting link

An interesting study looked at what psychosocial factors might be related to faster recovery and return to sport following injury. A survey format was used to measure the following factors – positive attitude, outlook, stress and stress control, social support, goal setting, positive self-talk, and mental imagery-as well as related items about beliefs and recommendations for enhanced healing. Some 19% of the athletes participating in the study had exceptionally fast recoveries. These subjects had higher scores on all variables tested; while those in the slowest healing group had lower scores. The most significant results were found in the more action related factors of goal setting, positive self-talk, and the use of healing imagery (Ievleva and Orlick 1999).

Ievleva and Orlick (1999) compared slow and fast healers and found that the fast healers:

  • took personal responsibility for healing
  • had high desire and determination
  • had more social support
  • maintained a positive attitude
  • used creative visualization
  • were less fearful of re-injury upon return to full participation

Correct exercise prescription is vital. This gives the athlete personal responsibility for healing. You must understand why you are doing the exercises and not just how to do them.

The club setting is a great social support network. Keep coming to the sessions that you can participate in. We can try to adapt a session so you can still participate. Talk to the other athletes and coaches about your injury if you want to or help with the running of a club training session or organisation of other club related events.

Maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult. The more severe an injury the more difficult it is to be positive. That's only natural. The three points above should help. If you are unable to participate in one triathlon discipline see it as an opportunity to improve in another one or two or work on other important aspects of injury prevention and management such as strength, balance, proprioception etc.

Visualization is a powerful tool. A good time to practise this mental skill is just before going to sleep. There are a variety of techniques you might use such as visualizing the injured tissues healing, visualizing a particular time when you felt great e.g. a previous training session or race, or visualizing yourself performing the way you want to once the injury has healed. This can help maintain desire, determination and confidence and help you be less fearful of re-injury when you do return to full participation.

I love watching this preview to the next ITU World Championship Series. Click here to have a look. Perhaps it might help you stay motivated if you have an injury or just help you push it a little harder in training when you have to.

This week is our threshold swim session. Relentless...but in a good way. Remember fins for the swim session as we will be using the in the drill set. The run session will be a something different this week. Blame Karl!

See you Sunday. Remember the clocks go forward Saturday night. Tim (LFTC Coach).

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A little feedback from last Sunday.

I hope you enjoyed Sunday's session. We had a few first timers at both the swim and the run which was great to see. I was very impressed by the efforts of our first timers in both in the lido and in the park. The usual suspects did very well too especially on the speed work where I had a hard job convincing people not to do too much. Nice work!

So a few of you found the kicking drills during the swim session particularly difficult. While an effective kick provides some propulsion when swimming front crawl the majority of the propulsion does come from the action of the arms and trunk. However, an ineffective kick can produce a significant amount of drag and this is why kick effectiveness is something that we should all work on.

What does it mean to have an effective kick? Here is what Swim Smooth have to say:

  • Your kick should lift your legs up to give you a good body position.
  • Your kick should be low drag.
  • Your kick timing should drive your rotation, not hinder it.
  • Your kick should be low effort so it minimises energy use.

What are the key elements of an effective kick?

  • Kick from the hip. The knee will bend slightly on the down stroke and straighten on the upstroke. This is achieved by having a 'relaxed knee' with the movement being driven by the hip.
  • Point your toes. By pointing your toes, known as plantar flexion of the ankle, you not only effectively make your leg longer but you reduce drag.
  • Ankle flexibility. Being able to point your toes so that the top of the foot is in line with the lower leg requires good ankle flexibility. You can improve this with regular ankle mobility exercises but some people are more flexible than others and that's just the way it is. Elite swimmers are generally very flexible in key areas such as the shoulder and ankle.
  • Timing. There are a number of kicking speeds that swimmers use - 2, 4, or 6 beats per arm cycle (a cycle is two arm strokes counting both arms). The key with good timing is that as the hand enters the water at the front of the stroke the opposite leg should kick in a downward direction. Kick timing is an advanced skill and you should work on the three points above before trying to address timing.

From my observations poolside kicking from the knees was a common fault. This means that the hips and legs will sit very low in the water creating significant drag and resulting in greater energy expenditure. It's no coincidence that those people who find kick sets especially tough are the same people who tend to kick from the knees.

Some people were not pointing their toes i.e. plantar flexing the ankle. This could be due to either a lack of flexibility at the ankle or you just need a little reminder to keep those toes pointed. Next time your in the water try kicking with your toes pointing down to the bottom of the pool. You'll soon realise how important it is to keep those toes pointed!

If you want more information about the leg kick in front crawl swimming there is a whole page dedicated to it if you have a look at Swim Smooth. There are some great animations and videos to help get the key points across.

This weekend we have a 5km time trial for the run session. Always fun! The swim is focussing on aerobic endurance. Not too hard but plenty long enough!

See you Sunday. Tim (LFTC Coach)

Saturday, 12 March 2011

What about this wall?

The triathlon is being built as a showcase event for the 2012 Olympics and why wouldn't it be? One of the world's fastest growing sports, in the middle of one of the world's most amazing cities, in what has become one of the most dominant countries in triathlon with a massive fan base. I was shocked and disappointed to say the least to read that there is a 3 metre high wall to be erected around Hyde Park for the Olympic triathlon in 2012. Ticketless fans will only be able to see some of the cycling route outside the park according to 220Triathlon.

There will be seating for only 3000 people in front of the Royal Park's Serpentine Lake. I am not sure how many standing tickets will be available for those that would like to watch the event from within the 3 metre high wall. I realise we are probably going to be told that the wall is required for security reasons and is an absolute necessity. The Tour de France start in London attracted hundreds of thousands of people and no giant wall was needed. The triathlon in Sydney in 2000, arguably the best Olympics so far, was not surrounded by a giant wall. Now I don't have all the facts but I just don't think putting up a 3m high wall around the Olympic triathlon is the right thing to do. Perhaps we could start a 'No Wall' Facebook group? Rage Against the Machine made it to Xmas number one this way after all!

The club's training is moving into a different phase with training sessions starting to become more race like in terms of intensity and skill. That is not sat that all sessions are going to be flat out. Far from it. But our sessions will have components in them to build race specific fitness and skills. We'll continue to build muscular endurance using intervals at race effort of even slightly harder and we will maintain our aerobic endurance built up over the winter months.

This weekend is our technique swim. You will need fins and a pull buoy so please bring them along. The Lido has a limited supply of pull buoys and we should leave then for the public lanes. The run is a combination of intervals at 5km pace and 200m sprints.

See you Sunday. Tim (LFTC Coach)

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Jumping on the bandwagon.

I have often heard people say that triathletes are willing to accept new ideas, methods and technology more readily than other single discipline sports such as cycling, swimming and running because triathlon is a relatively new sport. How many triathletes do you see wearing Newton shoes or compression garments? You can't have a conversation with most triathletes without talking about core stability and the latest nutrition product on the market to boost performance. I bet you see more triathletes than any other type of sportsperson wearing minimalist shoes in transition this season. Is this because we are open-minded individuals or are we just a little too eager to jump on the bandwagon and believe what we are told/sold?

I bought a new compression garment this week. There was a list on the back of the box of all the qualities that the product offers:
  • Superior compression fabric
  • Fast recovery
  • Improved circulation
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Reduced muscle damage
  • Heightened agility
  • Sun protection
All but two items on the list had a symbol suggesting I read the fine print. Which two items didn't have the the symbol? The first and the last. And what was the fine print? 'Suggested benefits'. There is very little evidence to suggest compression garments have any significant effect on performance or recovery. I am not saying there is no evidence but perhaps we have been lead to believe that the effect is greater than it really is. So why did I buy the compression top? To match by compression tights!

The same can be said for running shoe technology and barefoot running. I have read 'Born to Run' and it is a great read. The chapter that discusses the running shoe industry is fascinating. I would love to write a blog on both topics but unfortunately I just don't have time. However, if you are interested in reading a little more about running shoes, my colleague Ian Griffiths (Sports Podiatrist) wrote a very good blog on the topic. You can read it here. If you are interested in reading a bit more about barefoot running then you should read this series of blogs by Ross and Jonathan from the Science of Sport. Start here and read from bottom to top. Both blogs are pretty lengthy and do contain a fair bit of science but I think they are worth looking at.

A healthy level of skepticism is a good thing. Dig a little deeper before you make your next purchase that promises a reduction in injury risk, improved performance or faster recovery. This week is our 'Splash and Dash' threshold swim session. It's going to be tough I am afraid (but only as tough as you want it to be). The run is a mix of 10km and 5km pace intervals of a mile in length. Don't forget the Captain's Dinner!

See you Sunday for some healthy debate about shoes or the lack there of! Tim (LFTC Coach)