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Journey, Training

Mallorca – An athlete’s paradise
It doesn’t come as a big surprise that this island is a cycling Mecca and great training ground.Especially at this time of the year where the weather is perfect and the mass tourism hasn’t quite set in yet!
Mallorca offers an amazing and very diverse scenery. From beautiful beaches and bays to high mountains with steep cliffs and winding narrow roads that take your breath away.  The roads are well maintained, they provide you with very challenging cycling routes which you can tell by the amount of cyclists on the road. I’d say there were more cyclists than cars on the road.

I had the pleasure to spend 3 full weeks on the island and dedicate all my time and attention to my training. Some might say I have the luxury of living a life like a professional triathlete. I take that 🙂 Although it sounds like a perfect set-up there were certain challenges I had to tackle to make the most out of my time there. My goal was to truly focus on my training and be fully committed to get me closer to my goal.

Training structure
The 3 weeks were divided into a 2 week building block of very intense training and 1 week with reduced load for recuperation to allow the body to absorb the work and recover. One mistake I didn’t want to do was to over commit and add additional training stress to my plan to risk an injury or too much fatigue and over-training. It was important to focus on the recovery between the training, limit my stress (sleep and nutrition are key here), so that I can hit every single training session with 100%.
The theme of these 3 weeks was – sustainable power and speed!
Oh boy there were some serious sessions that took me way out of my comfort zone and raised the bar of my pain level. I had to dig deep, be fully present during the training. I had some great break through sessions which lifted my fitness level again.
My coach put together a well balanced training plan. To give you an idea what a week typically looked like:

Swim: 3-4 sessions, 2 key sessions and 2 supporting sessions
Bike: 3 sessions, 2 key and 1 supporting session
Run: 3-5 sessions, 2 key, 1 brick and 2 supporting sessions
Strength training: 2 sessions

The idea behind this is to have 2 key sessions per sport. The key sessions are very specific to the training phase you are currently in (sustainable power). They are usually more challenging and ask you to dig deep and work your butt off.
The supporting sessions are less stressful and give your body some chance to recover. All all in all I did between 12- 14 sessions per week. Yes that is a lot of work for an amateur athlete (but well I am supposed to train like a pro right)

The amount of accumulated hours or distance was not a main indicator at the end of the week of how well or successful you have trained.
Factors like form over speed, efficiency on the bike and run, sustainability of power over a given time, switching between training zones, knowing when to work hard and when to go easy. One of the key things that I have learned is that more speed and power do not necessarily translate to better training success.

A typical training day
Just to give you an idea what a typical day looked like:

  • Wake up with sunrise
  • Breakfast #1
  • First Training session
  • Breakfast #2
  • Active recovery
  • Spare time
  • Lunch
  • Spare time
  • Second training session
  • Dinner
  • Sleep

Focus on recovery and reducing stress
I think the biggest advantage you have when you can only focus on training is to reduce your other stress factors in your life (unproductive stress) as much as possible and make recovery a priority. I usually had 8-9 hours of sleep each day and that is truly a big benefit when it comes to training. Sleep is your best recovery tool you have, it’s free so make use of it.

The second best thing in my opinion for reducing stress is nutrition! This is a challenge when you are not at home and travel. Eating only plant based doesn’t make things any easier. Well that’s what I first thought but I think I managed it very well and it’s doable to eat well and healthy while travelling.

I will explain how I managed to do it in a separate article. This could be interesting for a lot of people who travel and struggle with eating healthy while being away.

Wrap up
Apart from all the crazy training I did, I had also plenty of time to do other things. I explored a lot of different places on the island, I met some wonderful new people, I was running the household at my host (including feeding and looking after his cat, cleaning the house and playing with his son). Getting to know a shop owner, helping out my host with his new restaurant and have more time for reading, yoga and meditation was nice too.

The last week I spent with my sister and her husband. After not seeing them for so long, it was nice spending some time together and forget about training for a while.

All in all I think the 3 weeks of training helped me a lot. I have made some big fitness improvements, got more confidence in my approach of how I am doing things and got a clearer picture of where I am heading.

I am now 8 weeks away from the big race. The clock is ticking and the excitement is slowly building up.

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Journey, Training

I can’t believe how fast the time has gone over the last months. I am now 6 months into my new training program and 12 weeks away from my first IRONMAN. That sends some shivers down my spine and makes me nervous and excited at the same time.

My last block of training was 12 weeks long, it was the pre-season training phase and it has been the best training I have ever done so far. It’s fair to say that I have improved and hit the targets for this phase. The goal was to improve my overall cardiovascular and muscular endurance and get very fit but not race ready.

The intention from my coach was very clear, which was to deliver great endurance and to develop a feeling of being ‘fit and strong‘ without being fast or sparky. I have experienced the biggest shift of fitness so far and the training prescribed to me caused a steep curve of fitness, relative to my current state. That gives me a lot of confidence going into the next 2 phases of training and getting ready for IRONMAN Austria and the races that will follow.

My last 3 months of training focused mainly on the following areas:

  1. Endurance
  2. High Power with extended rest
  3. Strength
  4. Some VO2max efforts
  5. Swim Focus
  6. Evolved Functional strength work

The training was demanding and had a nice blend of neurological stimulation, high power work and some simple endurance training. A key was to be an active participant in your training process and to be aware of accumulating fatigue. It was important to understand the purpose and intensity of each session prescribed. When the plan calls out for VERY EASY, it means very easy. The intention behind that is to make you 100% ready for the KEY sessions which usually call out for some higher intensity. With that in mind and a proper fueling, nutrition and recovery plan, I could navigate through each week very well and hit my targets.

I am now progressing into the next phase of my training with the aim to sharpen my fitness and improve my power and speed by throwing in some sustained higher intensity work. This will be daunting and very challenging but with my level of fitness to this date I am confident to make it through and to continue to improve.

I have recently relocated back to Europe and will be spending the majority of my time in Austria. For the next 3 weeks though I will be heading to the beautiful island of Majorca in Spain where I will purely focus on training! For me it’s like living a pro life at the moment 🙂 Such a luxury isn’t it. Some might assume that with the time available I would increase my training volume but that is not the case. Nothing has changed in my training and my coach wants to me focus more on recovery and making sure I use the spare time to rest up and enjoy some time off.

It’s always a fine line and balancing act to get not caught up with training too much and forget about the other beautiful things in life. For my part, I want to make the most out of it and push things to find my own limits this year. I am feeling great, I am in good health, I am not too fatigue and my energy levels are high despite all the training that I do. I will continue to drive my passion for healthy eating and living, fitness and training to allow me to create a lifestyle that makes me happy and fulfilled.

Here is glimpse of Alcudia where I will be spending my next few weeks 🙂

Namaste,
AndyG

alcudia

 

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Journey, Training

I am now well and truly in the middle of my Pre-Season training phase and training has started to “feel real”. I have been cruising through the first phase but I now things are getting tougher each week.

As I progress through each week my training volume and intensity has started to go up gradually. Each week the sessions progress from the previous week and I start feeling some level of fatigue creeping in. The focus has started to shift towards “real” endurance, strength and some high power work. I have started to hit some progressive mechanical endurance sessions on the bike, heavy big gear work, coupled with some heavy strength-endurance tempo hill repetitions in the run. Swimming has become very challenging and requires me to stay truly focused in the sessions to make sure I execute the sessions as prescribed. It’s very challenging especially when you have to do these sessions by yourself.

Functional strength training has also progressed and more load has been introduced. The exercises have started to become more “complete” which means you have to engage your whole body to execute certain movements. The foundation and technique is set, so now it’s time to add load and some explosive power movements into your routine.

With the increase in load and volume, it’s critical to monitor the level of fatigue and make sure I don’t accumulate not too much. It’s a fine balancing act. So far all good. I am still staying on top of things.

The other big challenge is to stay on top of your nutrition. It requires good planning to make sure you have nutrition available after each session. Skipping a meal is not an option. Discipline and planning is key.

I have decided to skip a few of my early season races. I have found that they distract me too much from training and add additional stress without adding much benefit to my overall training goals.

My last race here in Australia will be next month on the 19th of March. I am really looking forward to this race and it’s going to be a first “checkpoint” for me to see where I am at with my fitness.

From March onwards I can fully focus on my training as work will take a back seat. I will have to prepare a few things for my move back to Europe. Beside from training I will start to work on a sideline project that will keep me busy for a while and fill the gap between the training. Once back in Europe, I will spend a month in Majorca. I have heard it’s a pretty neat spot for triathlon training 😉

Other than that I will enjoy my last weeks here in Perth, soak in the beautiful weather, the beach, go on a road trip and catch up with friends. Can’t believe that the time is drawing to an end here :-((

Thanks for reading.

Cheers Andy

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Journey, Training

I will post more regular updates on how my training is going in preparation for the IRONMAN race in June. This is part of my fundraising challenge as well, so I want to keep everyone who is interested in my journey up to date on how everything is going.

I am now 13 weeks into my new coaching program and last week was the end of the 1st training block (post season).
I am now transitioning into the next block of training which will last for another 3 months (pre season).

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I follow a periodization training approach which I explain in more detail in one of my previous posts, Periodization – How to plan your training seasonSo far I have to say I am making good progress and my body is adapting to the new style of training. It took me a few weeks to get used to it but I can see already some benefits and improvements. It’s a gradual progress and the goal is to prepare your body to adapt to the training load, volume and intensity to get you in race shape. I really enjoy what’s been throwing at me so far haha. Also the education that I receive as part of the coaching is such a big value! And it’s fun overall as well!

The training so far has been fairly “light” and not too challenging. The main challenge was to get used to the new training methods. Especially with swimming where I have started to use a lot of tools to help me working on my body position and to become more streamlined and efficient with my strokes.

On the bike the focus has been on neuromuscular recruitment, making the connection between my brain talking to my body, by doing high and low cadence work, with most of the work in the lower end of the training zones (Z1 and Z2).

The running has been similar to the bike – neuromuscular recruitment, building up those muscle fibres to get used to more running. I have found that it’s frequency and quality over distance and volume. My longest run so far, was a 2hr trail run. Looking at the training ahead I don’t think I will be doing too many long runs. That’s an interesting approach and I am keen to see how my body will adapt to this to get me ready to run a full marathon.

I can see some good improvements in my swimming and cycling already. Very happy with that. Overall I feel very good, I am not too fatigue, recover quickly and haven’t had any injuries.

In the next months it’s all about getting really FIT!!! It’s going to get more challenging, more workouts, more sessions, more intensity and also a ramp up in the volume. The focus is definitely on swimming and functional strength work over the next weeks and months. There will be some very challenging sessions for me in the pool. For the running part I will start adding more strength and speed work and I will see more HIIT workouts for both the bike and run.

For anyone who is interested here are a few statistics from my post season training block

Post season stats

 

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Journey, Training

Purplepatch coaching introduced me to a well known paradigm in the athletic training world, Periodization. I somehow followed a periodization training approach before but not on a long term basis, it was rather targeted to single races and not on an entire season.

In general terms periodization can be described as:

…the systematic planning of athletic or physical training. The aim is to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period. (Source: wikipedia.org)

In order to follow such a training model, the first thing I did was to plan my key races and supporting races over the course of the season. In my case the season goes from October 2015 – October 2016. My aim is to reach 2 peak performances over the next 12 months. The first one is end of June 2016 for my Ironman race and the second one is at the end of September for my end of season race.

With this in mind I also scheduled in some supporting races (they are referred to as B races) throughout the early and mid season. I have to be realistic here and know that I won’t have peak performance for these early season races.

That’s a critical thing to remember when approaching the training, as you can’t be firing from all cylinders throughout the whole season and expect outstanding results. Hence why you have your key races, they are planned accordingly to allow specific preparation in the buildup to race day. In my case I have 2 periods where I aim for my best possible fitness and readiness for performance.

The season is structured in 4 phases:

  • Post season
    The focus here is primarily on skill development, foundational fitness, strength and form. This is the phase with the lowest physical stress. The aim is to prepare you for the heavier training in pre-season.
  • Pre season 
    This is where the heavy lifting occurs. It’s a very critical and fundamental phase in training. Focus here is on building muscular endurance and great overall fitness. It’s higher in training load, mixed in with some high power and specific intensity training.
  • Sustainable Power
    The aim in this relative short phase is to progress your endurance to high sustained effort and sharpen your fitness. Also referred to as “above-threshold intervals”. That’s where you do your classic interval based training.
  • Race specific season 
    The emphasis here shifts to become race ready. Primary focus is around race specific intensity and simulations. This phase is specific to your key races.

Splitting the year into different phases makes absolutely sense to reach peak performance for your key events. It allows your body to adapt and transform as you progress through the season. One thing that I noticed in my last season was that you can’t maintain peak performance for too long and it needs to be well planned to reach your full potential on day X.

So far I am well into post season and feeling good. As my main races are still far away, it’s hard to get not too caught up in early season races. As we approach the triathlon season here in Australia, it’s even more tempting. It’s key to stay focused, stick to your training plan and keep the bigger picture in mind.

 

 

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Journey, Training

My first 2 training weeks on the new purplepatch fitness training program are done! After a nice introduction to the program by one of the coaches I was given a week to do some benchmark testing, so that my coach gets a better idea to asses my training and current fitness level.

So what does this involve and why is it important for your training?

First of all a benchmark test in each discipline allows you to asses your swimming, biking and running performance and the results of these tests are used to determine your training zones. That’s critical for your training sessions to know your target zones. Each training session is different and focuses on different areas. On one day you might have a low stress long endurance run and the other day you might need to do some short but high intense run intervals. Both of these training sessions require different pacing and different target zones.

The tests themselves are quite demanding and require some solid pacing and strong efforts.

For the swim benchmark I did a 1km Time Trial and a 100m best effort. The first effort is a solid endurance test, whereas the second focuses on your speed. This gives a good comparison of your endurance vs. speed fitness.

For the bike benchmark I did a 5min ALL OUT EFFORT. Ride as hard as you can for 5 minutes and record your average Heart Rate/Power (if you use a power meter which I don’t) over this time. Followed the 5min effort I did a 20 min Time Trial at your absolute best effort. Again you record your average heart rate. I did the test on a flat course with a few inclines.

For the run test I did a 30min best effort run. You record your average Heart Rate for the last 20mins. This is really hard and requires good pacing.

Based on the results the coach works out your training zones. I use 5 different zones for my training

Zone 1Recovery, very easy effort
Zone 2Easy endurance, you should be able to hold a conversation
Zone 3Medium endurance, strong but not breathless
Zone 4Threshold, Hard, no more talking here
Zone 5Very Hard, High Speed. lasts for a few seconds up to a minute max

These zones are important and allow me to drive a lot of my training sessions but it’s important to know that it’s only one way of measuring your effort. Another important aspect is how you feel and the perceived exertion. This can’t be measured by technology, that’s what your body is telling you! So keep listening.

Sometimes we get too caught up by data and forget to listening to our body. This can be a limiter in training and racing when we strictly stick to what our watch is telling us!

For me this is something I lack in my training and racing and need to improve! I get too attached to the data and need to start listening more to my body when it comes to perceived effort. That was a great take away message for me doing these benchmark tests.

Overall I was happy with the test results given the fact that I am still in the early stage of my training. I am looking forward to take another test in a few months time to see how much I have improved (or not haha)

 

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