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Triathlon is a Challenge.

That's why many people seek them out - because they are hard. At the same time, though, stepping outside our comfort zone, even forcing ourselves there, is unnatural. Your ability to do so is called "mental toughness."
It's widely believed that you can, in fact, train to develop mental. That's a valuable skill in triathlon because the more strenuous activity you can endure, the longer you can swim, bike, and run before giving up.
So, the more you put yourself in challenging physical and mental situations, the better you'll be able to push through them. That means on race day, the more likely you'll keep pushing to the end.



With over 40 years of cycling / triathlon training and racing under my belt, I’ve experienced a few bouts of fatigue over the years. Enthusiasm for the sport's and for training can overwhelm your better judgment, especially when you first sign up for an event such as IRONMAN. I’ve been grateful for the intervention of an experienced coach's who recognised the signs of overtraining and introduced additional recovery into my plan. It was the key ingredient to get me to the start line healthy and complete that first long distance race.
These days I’m more in tune with my body and understand the appropriate interventions to avert overtraining. Below are some of the signs that you may be overdoing it and tips for getting back on track.
Key warning signs of excessive fatigue and overtraining
Loss of hunger
The last thing you might expect to experience when you’re training for an IRONMAN event is a lack of appetite. However, with a significant training load and a lack of appropriate recovery can lead to a suppressed appetite.
Unusually sore muscles
Muscle soreness is an expected outcome of training, especially after challenging and intense sessions. However, prolonged soreness or unusual, sharp pains are a sign that you need to take some additional rest or consult with a medical professional.
Elevated waking heart rate
When it comes to monitoring your wellness, checking your heart rate upon waking each morning is one of the easiest things you can do. An elevated waking heart rate might indicate that your body is not recovering, even after a good night’s sleep, and a potential sign of overtraining.
Suppressed heart rate with high exertion in training
In contrast to a high waking heart rate, a low heart rate combined with a high level of perceived exertion in training is also an indicator that your body needs some additional rest.
Poor sleep and/or night sweats
When training load is high, a great night’s sleep is your best friend. It’s the time when your body is repairing the stress accumulated during your workouts. If you are experiencing interrupted sleep or waking up with the sheets drenched in sweat, it’s a sign of elevated cortisol (a stress hormone). This means you may need to pull back on training to enhance your recovery.
Push through or back off?
A certain amount of fatigue is to be expected when training for an IRONMAN. As an athlete, there are times when you will need to be mentally strong and stick with training, even when you’re feeling a little tired. However, if the symptoms are not just muscular fatigue and persist for several days, it could be an indicator of overtraining or a more systemic problem that should be diagnosed by a medical professional.
The first step is to reduce your training load and take a day or two with minimal or very light activity. Use this time to review your basic habits around training, including your daily nutrition, fuelling protocol during training sessions and sleep patterns. Ensuring that you get plenty of sleep and eat enough calories to support your training load is essential to your body’s ability to absorb the work and recover well.
If your body doesn’t start to turn around after a few days of additional recovery, and you’ve checked the boxes on sleep and nutrition, then you may need to consult with a medical professional to identify the issue.


Across all three disciplines, make sure you’re varying the intensity in your sessions. If you have two run sessions in a week, make one run slightly longer and run steadily enough to be able to hold a conversation (say 40 minutes of steady running). Then make the other session interval-based (maybe a 10-minute warm up with six two-minute bouts of effort followed by a one-minute recovery. Finish with a 10-minute cool down). The effort should be above your race day pace. Similarly, in the pool, split the distance you plan to swim into smaller chunks and vary your swimming speeds. By varying intensity you’ll see improvements and make training interesting.



Just as many if not more are training for many reasons, they may like the endorphin rush, want to beat there mates at the weekend or could just want to look and feel better.
All are very valid reasons to put your kit on and head out of the door. No matter if you're, wanting to podium at an event or wanting to feel better about yourself, you stand a much better chance by following a structured plan and don't forget that word consistency.
And remember coaching Works.

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The most common rule violations seen over the years involve helmets, transition, drafting and blocking. Each of these penalties is easy to avoid if you have the proper knowledge prior to race day. Training and nutrition are only a fraction of what will affect your race day experience. Knowing the rules so that you can race safely and avoid unnecessary penalties is key to enjoying your race and having a successful day.

1. Helmets

This is a two-part rule. The second half is the part most commonly violated but I feel it is important to address the first half as well. First, helmets used must be approved by the governing body under which you are racing.

Second, and the violation most often see in regards to helmets, is that you must be wearing your helmet before you take your bike from the rack and can not be removed until it has been put back onto the rack. That also means on your head and chin strap buckled. 

2. Transition

All of your gear must be placed in your designated area and the wheel of your bike (front or back) must be down on your side of your designated space. Whichever side your number is on, that is the side on which your wheel must be down. From my experience, most of the time referees will give you a heads up that you need to tighten up your area before giving you a variable time penalty. 

3. Drafting (Non-Draft Legal Events)

While on the bike course, you must keep at least 12 metres behind the athlete in front of you. If you move closer than this you are in the draft zone and must now pass. Once passing, you have 15 seconds for your front wheel to pass the front wheel of the athlete you are overtaking. Once this occurs, the overtaken athlete must drop back out of the 12 metre draft zone before attempting to re-pass. The penalty for this violation is a variable time penalty.

4. Blocking

Athletes must ride to the left-hand side of the road unless passing. Riding on the right side of the road without passing is considered blocking as you are interfering with other athletes ability to ride the course. The penalty for this violation is a variable time penalty.



5 tips for getting back in the water after a long break:

1. Take it day by day.

Generally, when we jump back into the pool (or other training) after a long break the expectation is that we swim a kilometre, shake the cobwebs loose, and then we are back! This is rarely the case. Depending on what and where we were up to during the break – i.e., did we stay in shape – the bounce back can be slow going.

With this in mind forget comparing yourself to where you were, or rather how far you are from where you were and focus on the day-to-day process of being an athlete again, and what that entails.

2. Train for volume before training for effort.

Over those first few weeks, focus on completing your workouts with good technique, and then begin to ramp up the intensity.

Consistently training to failure when you’re out of shape is the quickest way to exhaust yourself completely, mentally and physically. This can be the hardest thing in the world for an athlete to do; to take their foot off of the intensity pedal when they first get back into the pool. They want to swim fast, and they want to swim fast now, but resist this urge.

3. Build good habits from the get-go

One of the nice things about taking a long break from swimming is that when you come back you’re given a veritable clean slate. Use this fresh start as an opportunity to build good habits into your swimming from day one. Think about good form. Work on your flexibility and mobility. Include drills and skills rather than just ploughing up and down.

4. Be patient

Those first few weeks (and months if it’s been a really long break) can be trying, not only physically but mentally. You’ll wonder to yourself if you will ever swim as fast as you once did, why the pain of training is so much worse this time around, or that you don’t have the same confidence and mental toughness that you had before. It will come back; your feel for the water, the physical endurance, just not all at once as we hope it would!

5. Track and celebrate your progress

Measuring and recording your workouts not only gives you a record of what you’re doing, it brings together the points mentioned above as well; it allows you incrementally adjust volume, both in-session and over the course of a week.

It also provides you a place from which to see how you’re keeping up with your new habits, and also displays your ‘small wins’ in front of you to give you that reassuring push that you’re moving in the right direction.

What should we think about when we return to swimming?

Think about form, because you’re going to be physically taking it easy and you have all the time in the world. The more efficient you can make your swim and the smoother you can make it, the quicker you’ll be in a shorter space of time.

We often talk about building up a foundation of swim skills, and only moving up the ladder of skills when you can do the most important things. People like to work on the pull because they don’t like kicking or doing the slow stuff. Problem is that if you only focus on the ‘sexy’ bits, it really won’t make a massive amount of difference. Generating more power with your pull will make very little difference if you’re still wasting energy with your kick or creating more resistance to overcome.

Body position is most important. Get this right and everything else becomes easier – both reduced resistance and easier positioning to kick and pull better.

With good body position, focus on a decent kick. It doesn’t have to be powerful, it doesn’t have to be hard. It just has to create more propulsion than it causes resistance.

If you can manage this then using that improved body position means that you can create better body roll. This will put you in a better place to think about your underwater stroke. You can also recover over the water easier, and breathing will be simple.


We know that working hard is important—but to see results you also need to work smart.



Consistency is the most important element of any training plan. In order to build your fitness and prepare your body for the demands of race day, you need to be able to train daily.
To train consistently, we need to plan ahead in order to balance training with other life priorities. By reviewing your schedule ahead of time, you make certain the ability to carve yourself a slice of training time while making sure to fulfil other important life responsibilities. Put your training on your calendar and consider it an appointment with yourself!
Of course, in some cases, it may not be possible to fit the scheduled training on a particular day. Life is super busy, right? If you have one, make sure to review your schedule with your coach so she/he can help you make the appropriate adjustments to keep you on the consistency bus.
If you are self-coached, review the rhythm of the plan. Consider whether it’s possible to swap days, shorten or modify a workout, or skip the session when unexpected conflicts arise. When making adjustments, just be mindful not to set yourself up for too many hard or long days in a row. While double sessions are par for the course in triathlon, quadruple workouts are a very bad idea for most (if not all) age-group athletes.
When all else fails, remember one day here and there won’t ruin your overall consistency. But if you find you are regularly missing multiple workouts (especially key workouts), you may need to rethink the flow of the plan and/or your life schedule to set yourself up for success.


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When the time comes in your triathlon career to decide if you’re ready for an IRONMAN, consider these three factors when making your decision.

Endurance athletes are a goal-oriented bunch. The more we get involved in our sport, the more we yearn to reach outside of our comfort zone, attempting go farther and faster.

For triathletes, this reaching often leads to the inevitable question: “Can I do an IRONMAN?”

IRONMAN training requires a significant investment of resources. To determine whether now is the right time for you, consider three basic factors:

  1. Lifestyle

  2. Athletic experience

  3. Costs

1. Lifestyle

Your lifestyle is a key consideration before starting your IRONMAN journey. Finding an appropriate life-work-training balance will help you through the challenges of training – rather than stand as obstacles to your success.

How much time do you have to commit? You don’t need 20+ hours a week; however, training for an IRONMAN is still a time-consuming process. A typical plan will run a course of 24-30 weeks, with the first six to 10 weeks totalling between eight and 10 hours per week.

As you get closer to the race, training time ramps up, to averages closer to 12 to 15 hours per week. Peak weeks may hit 16+ hours, depending on the particular IRONMAN training plan you follow, or coach you hire.

Training time will also detract from time you spend doing household chores, other hobbies and your social life. Consider if a balance is possible, or if you would be okay with things being out-of-balance for several weeks.

You may find yourself falling asleep while standing up at family events. You may forget what your friends look like as time for socializing becomes limited. You will get used to saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t. I have a long ride on Saturday morning.”

You’ll learn to accept that bedtime is 8:30 p.m. And, despite going to bed at 8:30 p.m., you will have days where you’re certain the alarm clock is conspiring against you. But, make sure you have time to sleep! One of the biggest mistakes age group athletes make is to cut sleep when volume increases.

Most importantly, think about how training will affect your family. It is crucial to have your family’s support. While you may have to get creative to balance family and training time, it can be done. Have a discussion with your family. Be honest about the time investment. Ask for their advice. Be willing to adapt your training for key events. For example, if there is a vacation or family event, plan for that to be a reduced load week or a rest day in your training. Work with your family, and ask for their support. Don’t assume they will give it.

Ask yourself, honestly, if you are willing to make these sacrifices in order to achieve your goal. While your life will not make a 180-degree change; it will change during the weeks you are training. Be honest with yourself!

2. Athletic experience

You will be more successful, and enjoy the experience much more, if you have a history in some type of endurance-based sport.

Training for an IRONMAN takes a toll on your body and mind. A gradual progression can help you avoid injury, overtraining or burnout. Race day is NOT the main challenge. The training is really what makes an IRONMAN challenging—and ultimately worth doing.

Each of you will have unique circumstances to your racing history, so there isn’t a specific formula that applies for all. However, it’s advisable to have some experience with triathlon and with events that require multiple hours (say 4+ hours) to complete but not essential, A coach or fellow athlete with experience at the distance can provide helpful guidance in assessing your history and race readiness.

The specific course you select should be match to your experience and abilities. Each course will maximize or minimize certain strengths and weaknesses. For your first attempt at the distance, we recommend a course that:

  • Is similar to your available training terrain. For example, if you select a race with hills, can you find access to hills for training – or suitable simulation? Conversely, a flat course presents it’s own challenges, so if you live in hilly terrain, you will need to teach yourself to pedal constantly. No coasting downhill on the flats!

  • Speaks to your particular strengths. For example, if you are not a strong swimmer, then selecting an ocean swim may prove challenging—especially if you don’t have access to practice swims in the ocean.

  • Is easy for travel. Driving to an IRONMAN reduces the travel logistics significantly. Additionally, if you live close enough to the course, you may have the opportunity to train on it. On the flip side, your family may be on board if you select a course that offers the possibility for a vacation. Just recognize that flying to a venue poses some logistical challenges.

3. Costs

IRONMAN is expensive. The race fees alone are around £500, but they are only the start.

There are training costs, such as pool fees, gear purchases or upgrades, and sports nutrition. Your weekly food bill may increase, as you eat more to fuel your longer efforts. IRONMAN training creates a monster in your belly.

There are travel and lodging costs. Most races require that you pick up your packet at least one to two days before the race, so you need at least three to four days of lodging. If you fly or drive, there are costs associated with that.

Not all of these items are fixed costs. You can keep the overall budget in check. For example, you need a bike, but you don’t need a £10,000 bike.

You will also need a training plan. An unstructured approach to training is not a recipe for success. As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.  Will you purchase a structured planhire a coach, find a free plan online? The decision to hire a coach goes beyond the scope of this article, but consider how the need for training advice will impact your budget.

So are you ready to do an IRONMAN?

I hope this article gives you some useful factors to consider as you make your decision. While the challenges may be significant, when you cross that finish line, you will feel like every moment was worth it to hear the announcer say: “You are an IRONMAN!”

The training and the race are a triumph of the human spirit, and a display of the depth of human determination. It will push your limits, and show you how amazing the human body and mind can be.



  • Enhanced strength. It's kind of a no-brainer: If you lift weights, your muscles will get stronger. However, as you age, your muscle mass decreases. Muscle mass can start decreasing when you're in your 30s, and the average age of a triathlete is between 35 to 40 years old. If you're an average-aged triathlete, you're dealing with less muscle mass, and therefore less strength.

  • Muscular endurance and power. Stronger muscles give you more stamina. In a race that could be several hours long, your body needs to be able to go the distance.

  • Higher resistance to injury. Strong muscles actually strengthen your bones by increasing bone density. Another plus is that stronger muscles also protect your joints. In a sport where you're using repetitive motion on your joints, you'll want to protect them as much as you can so that you don't injure yourself during training or a race.

  • Better form. If you have greater muscle capacity, your body may be able to maintain a better form while you compete. If you're running hunched over because you don't have the muscle power to run upright, adding some strengthening exercises could help. However, if you're performing the mechanics of a discipline incorrectly, it's possible that weight training could exacerbate the problem.

  • Decreased fatigue. Improve your stamina by adding muscle. When you're racing, the muscle fibers in your body break down, causing fatigue to kick in. The more muscle fibers you have, the longer it takes to break them down.

  • Improved efficiency. If you're performing the mechanics of each discipline correctly, strength training can help make your movements more efficient. Move more efficiently, and you'll move faster, improving your overall race time.

  • Improved performance. When you add strength training into the equation, it can ultimately lead to better performance in both your discipline training and your race performance.


 With swimming, cycling, and running combined into a single triathlon competition, there’s a lot for beginner triathletes to learn. Each discipline within a triathlon is not the same as swimming, cycling, or running as standalone sports. Not only are there some rule differences, but your cycling leg will be affected by the swim before it, and the run is always impacted by the fatigue from the previous two legs. And then there are the transitions, which are often referred to as a sporting discipline all their own. You can gain or lose a ton of time based on your skills and efficiency in transitions between disciplines. To help you shorten the learning curve, here are some great beginner triathlon tips that will help you conquer your next triathlon and continue to improve your performance in later races.



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1. Keep Your Triathlon Training Schedule Practical

Don’t try to fit your life into a training schedule, build a training schedule that fits your life. Be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to training instead of setting yourself up for failure by trying to maintain an unsustainable workload.

You will see much larger gains in fitness if you maintain a moderate but consistent training plan.

2. Include Social Training Sessions

Find meet-up groups to swim, bike, and run with that are around or just above your fitness level. It is more fun to suffer with others and it can also help keep you accountable and on track with your goals. You will also meet fellow triathletes who can help you out and give you advice based on their own experiences.

3. Focus on Improving Your Triathlon Performance, Not Equipment

With so much high-end performance gear to buy for three disciplines, it is easy to want the best of everything. As a beginner you should place more value on solid gear that is reliable and durable. As you improve fitness, the benefits of lighter and slicker gear will have more significant impact on your performance. When you’re starting out, the improvement you make in fitness – with standard gear – will impact your performance way more than slicker/lighter gear.

4. Prioritize Your Key Workouts First

When you have multiple workouts scheduled for one day, it’s best to complete the more difficult or important workout first when you’re fresh. If you save your key workout for after you’ve already done an endurance workout that same day, you are much less likely to be able to maintain the proper intensity to successfully complete your important workout. This is why it’s important to understand the purpose behind every workout so you can prioritize accordingly.

5. Don’t be afraid to Cut Workouts Short When Necessary

Hitting the proper intensity for your workout and staying consistent with your training is much more important than perfectly finishing every workout as scheduled. It’s critical to recognize when you are too fatigued to complete a workout, or that by struggling to finish your intervals you risk compromising the quality of future key workouts.

6. Include Brick Workouts

It’s important to experience how your body will react to transitioning from swimming to cycling to running on race day. To simulate how you’ll feel, it’s a good idea to incorporate brick workouts in which you complete a swim and bike workout or bike and run workout back-to-back.

7. Practice Organizing Your Transition Area

Spend some time figuring out how you are going to set up your transition area so on race day, in the heat of the race, you are quick and efficient. Make sure you only include the absolute essentials – a cluttered transition area will cause unnecessary stress and slow you down.

8. Practice Your Transitions

Go through the entire process of taking off your wetsuit and getting into cycling gear, then getting into your running gear. You can include transition practice during your brick workouts, when you are a little fatigued, to better simulate race day conditions.

9. Include Open Water Swims in Your Training

Open water pack swims are not always readily available to include in your training plan, but they are essential to increasing your comfort level and triathlon performance. Make sure to take advantage of any opportunities you have to experience open water pack swimming and practice how to properly sight – stroke, breath, then bring your head to face forward and lift it just so your eyes are out of the water.

10. Learn How to Make a U-Turn on Your Triathlon Bike

Make sure you can safely and efficiently make a u-turn at the middle of a course. Try this at the end of your training rides by putting a cone out in your driveway or a safe, traffic-free area and practice entering the turn wide, hitting the apex of the turn by the cone, and exiting the turn wide while maintaining your momentum.

11. Train Your Digestive System for Race Day

Train your digestive system to be able to take in energy on the bike and run. You should aim to replenish 25%-35% of calorie expenditure and 500-100 ml of fluids per hour. You will likely need to dial your fluid and fuel intake during the run, so make sure to experiment to determine how much you are able to handle on the run.




Winter Cycling Requires Motivation

This week I have added a few thoughts on the daily winter mind battle with motivation, you know you’ll love it when you get out there, you just need to get out there first.

“I’ll not be cycling today because it’s raining” – But you’ve got full windproof lycra bib tights that were designed to keep you warm in this weather and will dry very quickly should it stop. Why did you buy waterproof over shoes and those expensive waterproof gloves if you’re not going to use them? You have a waterproof jacket that you take everywhere with you stuffed into your pocket, now is the time you wear it. That collection of cycling caps you’ve been collecting are made for this very moment, put one under your helmet, peak down, and let the rain run off the peak away from your eyes, and don’t forget the mudguards you put on your bike for this very day.

“I think it’s too cold to cycle today” – But you’ll be warm and possibly even sweating in 5 minutes time, and after that your core body temperature will feel warm for hours. You’ll warm up quicker cycling than you will by taking the car, and you’ll have to scrape the ice of your windscreen and that takes ages.

“It looks dark outside, perhaps too dark to cycle ?“ – Cycle lights have never been so bright, Some even say too bright! for under £100 you can get an amazing set of lights, good enough to see and be seen on even the unlit back roads and off road tracks. That’s £100 towards your safety and your enjoyment, this is not an excuse anymore, get on your bike!



“It’s never as bad out as you think”

“It’s windy today, looks like hard work” – Is it gale force winds? Is it dangerous? No? Then it’ll be a good work out, long grinding miles of seated effort. It’ll feel like an alpine col (only without the stunning view) get out there quick, the mountain has finally come to you!

“The roads are covered with salt, and it’ll ruin my bike” – Not if you wash it it won’t. By far the best thing you can do in these conditions is to make the most of your mileage, if your bike’s already dirty and you’re going to have to wash it, ride all day. Ride until your bike lights are nearly flat and wash your bike by head torch; for a thorough wash feels deserved after making the most of it.

“I’m not able to ride, I have to go to work” - Plan ahead, take your work clothes and wash kit in to work the day before, lots of work places have shower facilities these days or failing that a good old wash in the sink (it’s all people had not so long ago). Then commute, it’s an easy way of adding a few miles to your weekly total and with traffic how it is, it probably won’t take too much longer either. Oh and it saves you money too.

I know this can all sound really easy and I know it’s not but believe me it really is worth the effort. So it’s time to get your winter bike out the garage put some air back in the tyres, lube that chain and embrace the winter weather and remember.




It’s the middle of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and most cyclists could be forgiven for putting their feet up, staying out of the cold and enjoying the off season. Others, though, will be out in full winter kit, ticking off the miles in the name of ‘base training’.

But is this pursuit of winter miles out in the elements something all cyclists should be doing? Or is it best left to the pros of the World Tour who can dedicate 20 hours a week to training?

What is base training?

Base training describes the long, steady rides intended to build your aerobic fitness.

Base training also provides the foundation on which to build your form through the rest of the season. The clue is in the name – if you consider your fitness as a pyramid, base training provides a solid endurance base, while your top-end form is represented by the peak of the pyramid.

“The goal is to develop your aerobic base fitness,”  “That gives you the fitness and ability to train harder and absorb a greater workload further down the line.”

Completing a phase of low intensity endurance training prepares the body for more intense work to come,  allowing you to sustainably build towards a higher peak of form.

“Things like HIIT [High Intensity Interval Training] are the pillars of your future training blocks, which is how you’re going to get your peak performance.”  “But base training is about building those foundations so you can then take the load.”

In terms of intensity, slow and steady is the name of the game – this is no smashfest around the local lanes, chasing KOM/QOMs on Strava. Base training rides should involve riding steady in zone two.

If you train with a power meter, zone two is 56 to 75 per cent of your Functional Threshold Power; if you train with a heart rate monitor, zone two is 65 to 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate.

What are the benefits of base training?

As I’ve already alluded to, base training has three main benefits: to improve your aerobic efficiency, to improve your ability to use fat as a fuel source, and to provide a solid foundation of fitness on which to build your form.

Let’s take a closer look at the physiological impact on your body and how that will set you up for the season to come.

“Base training improves your endurance, so you’re able to cycle at a lower percentage of your VO2 max.”

As a result, you’ll be able to produce the same amount of watts for less effort.  Put simply, this will enable you to ride faster without becoming fatigued.

But it’s not just in terms of your effort-to-output ratio where you’ll see improvements as a result of base training. “It enables you to cycle more aerobically, using more fat as opposed to carbohydrates as a fuel source.”

When riding at a low-to-moderate intensity, the body is using its aerobic energy system, with fat as the primary fuel source. The good thing about fat is that there are almost endless supplies of it, but it takes the body a lot longer to turn it into energy.

During high-intensity efforts (be intervals / tackling a hill etc) or when fatigued, the body switches to its limited stores of glucose sourced from carbohydrates (glycogen), stored in muscles and the liver.

By boosting the body’s ability to source energy from fat during steady efforts, it leaves your stores of carbohydrate for when you need them most – and potentially preventing the dreaded bonk. Base training will help raise the point at which your body switches from fat to carbohydrates as the primary fuel source.

A solid base will also leave you better prepared for any setbacks in training. “Once you’ve got that solid base, if you have a bit of time off due to illness or injury, you bounce back a lot quicker.”

“Also, when you build up the training sustainably, you hold your form for longer when starting off with a good base.”

The science behind base training

It’s clear that base training has the potential to improve your fitness, but what’s happening on a cellular level after long sessions in the saddle?

“The main physiological adaptation you’re seeking is better mitochondria density.”  

“The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, and having more – and denser – mitochondria allows your body to process greater amounts of fats and carbohydrate per minute. Your [lactate] threshold increases as well, which is a positive for endurance.”

“There are a bunch of other scientific adaptations that happen, too. You increase muscle glycogen storage – basically more energy – so you should have more left in the tank at the end of a long ride.

“That’s important because having bigger mitochondria in the cells increases your capacity to ultimately cycle more efficiently and train harder.”

Who needs to do base training?

Base training has been long-favoured by professional cyclists, who have the luxury of logging winter miles on dedicated training camps in Mallorca, Tenerife and other sun-kissed destinations.

“If you’re a professional cyclist, the traditional method of base training will help create that big aerobic base, but it takes a long time and hours of riding.”

So what about the rest of us?

“Everyone’s got to do base training.” “If you don’t do the base, you’ve got nowhere to go with it. You’ve got to do that first phase of base training – getting the winter miles in – to get a response and take the load for the rest of the year.”

Most riders have limited time to train, however – particularly if you’re balancing family, work and social commitments alongside a training plan. While base training can be beneficial to everyone in some shape or form, I must emphasises the importance of variety.

“If you can train for six hours a week and that’s all the time you have available, then spending those six hours solely base training and riding fairly steady will result in a reduced total work done, so reduced training stress, which could leave you losing fitness.”

The key, is to combine base training with rides at a higher intensity. With that in mind, how can you introduce base training into a time-crunched training plan?

How can I introduce base training into my winter plan if I’m short on time?

If you are targeting a specific event or goal, creating a training plan to prepare you for the particular demands of that objective will ensure you’re able to produce your best performance on the day.

However, whether you’re planning to race hour-long sprint or a an Ironman, I advise starting your training with a ‘build phase’ which incorporates base training.

“It’s all about periodization.” “After the build phase is where you would see the most difference in the training for these two events.”

I would suggest combining a long weekend base ride with indoor turbo sessions at a slightly higher intensity, with a focus on sweet-spot training: intervals at the top end of zone three / lower end of zone four are said to offer the most training bang for your buck for riders with limited time.

“The trick is combining indoor and outdoor riding.”

Long rides have an additional benefit beyond improving your fitness,  particularly if preparing for an event where you’re likely to spend many hours in the saddle.

“Getting that long riding in will develop you as a bike rider – not just your legs and your energy systems but those muscles in your upper body as well.”  

“If you’re planning to do races, events that are 3+ hours long, you need to get your body used to sitting on a bike in a certain position for a long time.”

I also recommend using long rides as a way to work on any weaknesses in your technique, including cadence drills. “The winter is always about ‘what’s my weakness? You should be working on that in some respect’.”  

Try warming up at a high cadence, before starting this drill: riding in a high gear for two minutes followed by a low gear for two minutes, repeated 10 times. “Generally, you’re looking at around 40 minutes of variation of cadence within a set.” “Then there would be a cool down period.”

Taking this approach to training should stand you in good stead for the season ahead by building your aerobic base, while also keeping your higher-end fitness ticking over. Time needn’t be a barrier to effective training.


Part One

An Ironman is NOT something to take lightly.  Even for an experienced triathlete, there are a LOT of things about Ironman that you just don’t know that you don’t know.  The following is a checklist of sorts. A checklist to help take you from wherever you are currently at to the finish line of an Ironman.
This is the first of two posts, which features the first six of my twelve critical components of Ironman preparation – the second set of six will be coming next week.



Before you think this is a sale pitch, it’s not.  I would encourage anyone to work with other coaches if they didn’t see a fit with me.  Either way, if you are really serious about training for an Ironman, hire an expert to help you along the way.  Find someone who you can see inspiring and motivating you, who is a good teacher, who has experience, and someone you “click” with.  It’s got to be a partnership and you need to see them as someone who you want to learn from and work together with.  Once you find that best-fit coach, ask all kinds of questions and be open to learning from them… they’ve been around the block a few times, while you may be new to the neighborhood.



Your family and support system is critical to making Ironman training an enjoyable experience. Bring them into the discussion way before you sign up. While triathlon training in and of itself is not overwhelming, ramping up to longer events like a half or full Ironman, can cramp other aspects of your life.  In the peak of Ironman training, about 12-14 weeks out from race day, you could have weeks of training approaching 20 hours per week.  Obviously, if you have a spouse and kids, they aren’t going to see as much of you as they are used to… so they should know what to expect!



While it’s possible to train for an Ironman within a year or so, it’s definitely not the best way to approach it.  Regardless of your background – running, cycling, or swimming – triathlon and Ironman training is a separate beast. Allowing 18 - 24 months to adequately prepare your body, and learn all there is to learn about the sport is really smart.  In those months, you can learn more about the sport – there is more to triathlon than just the Ironman.  Compete in various distances – Olympic and half-Ironman – and enjoy all that the sport has to offer.  It can be very addicting!



Don’t rush this process. Build a foundation. The stronger your foundation, the stronger the house will be.  This is where taking 18 - 24 months comes in.  Go through a season of training. Complete a few races – shorter distances and a couple of half Ironman. Get into consistent, year-round, strength training that builds functional strength. Develop a routine of not only swim/bike/run training but also strength training and flexibility. Make this a lifestyle, not just a ramp up to an Ironman event.



Again, don’t rush this.  During the final 6-8 months before your Ironman, you are going to want to give yourself plenty of time to build up to the distances of race day. Gradually build your miles up each week, with a week of reduced miles every 3-4 weeks, so that your body has time to acclimate to the training as well as recover in those down weeks.
One other mistake many people make when their training miles get larger – they start to neglect strength training.  Shift into a maintenance approach (lower weight, fewer sets), but don’t get into the habit of skipping strength sessions.
While you’re training, make sure the terrain you’re going to be racing on is the same you train on. So, if you’re doing Hilly Ironman, train in the hills.  If you’re heading to a Flat Ironman, you can get away with training on the flat. Be sure to factor in any 70.3’s along the way and make sure they complement the terrain of your Ironman course.



The more races you do, the less stress and anxiety you will feel.  This is especially true with the swim – you really can’t simulate swimming in a pack of swimmers for over a mile.  Going through the transition process, which is a little different in an Ironman compared to your local triathlon, is something else which needs practice. So, getting in a few 70.3s in the lead up to your Ironman is really beneficial.
Plus, quite honestly, the best part of triathlon are the races and the environment around race day.  All too frequently, after the season is over, I hear people say “I wish I raced more this year…”.


Part Two



While 70.3’s are a challenge, a full Ironman is a whole different beast. It’s not just more challenging in terms of distance. What becomes dramatically more important is your nutrition and hydration plan.  Without a plan that will work for you in hour 10, 11, 12 and beyond, the marathon will be more like a march of death rather than the cherry on top of a memorable day.  But, without testing the plan with a long day lasting more than 70.3 miles, the less assurance you will have that it will work.  Having a couple of endurance bricks, say a 70-mile bike and a 15-mile run, or an 80-mile ride and 16-18 mile run, will start to give you a real taste of what Ironman race day will be like.  More importantly, if you finish them with no stomach or dehydration issues, and a feeling that you still have more left in your legs to continue running without crashing and burning, then you know you are on the right track.

#8 Long Open Water Swims – Build confidence with swims beyond race distance. Don’t wait.

While running will definitely take a lot out of your legs, and biking is a lot less impact, you can do a lot more swimming without fear of breaking your body down.  Swimming can be a big concern for a lot of people – fear of swimming in packs, a lack of ability and confidence, and a general fear of open water or ocean swims.  The first key to overcoming these things is to lean on your coach (go back to #1) and get some quality swim instruction.  This needs to start as soon as possible. Further down the road, when you are a competent swimming and the weather permits, get out in the open water.  Build your swim yardage up and get in the habit of weekly endurance swims.  As you get closer to race day, get beyond the race distance.  Go 1.5 miles if you’re prepping for a 70.3, and build up to even 3 miles for an Ironman.  Once you get to these distances, you will enter the water on race day with confidence that you’ve got the swim distance, no problem.



Unless you’re an elite athlete or top level age-grouper, you’re not going to be in a position to “race” for 5-7 hours in a 70.3, much less a 12+ hour Ironman.  These are endurance events, with an emphasis on “endurance”.  So, with that said, keep the same pace (NOT faster) that you normally completed your long rides and runs at.  Why on earth, after doing most of your long bike rides at 17 mph, would you be suddenly able to ride one or two miles per hour faster on race day?  Or be able to run sub 9-minute miles when all of your training runs were slightly above 10 min/mile?  When you see someone go by you who, by your estimation, has no business going faster than you are going, you have to let them go.  Let them do their thing while you do yours.

The goal, whether you are a pro or in the back of the pack, is to get to the finish line.  Stay comfortable, if not easy, as much as you possibly can.  Enjoy the day. Soak in the atmosphere and the crowds. Like Ferris said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

#10 Nutrition: Fueling and Hydration: The Fourth Sport.

I cannot possibly understate how important your race-day (and training) fueling and hydration is.  When the top pros have issues with their nutrition, they become mortal. They walk. They suffer. Sometimes they even DNF. Nutrition is different for everyone.  Let me say that again.  Nutrition is different for everyone.  Factors include your weight, body composition, taste buds, ability to handle heat, sweat rate, ability to digest certain foods, and the list goes on.  Since everyone is different, each of us needs to figure this out.  This is another key area for your coach to help you out and work through the things you experience in training. 

While everyone is different, there are a couple of things which applies to pretty much everyone.

  • Timing is everything – eat smaller portions more frequently.  Divide your hourly caloric target by four and take in that amount every 15 minutes.

  • Drink often, drink early – drink from the get-go and follow a similar approach as calories. If you’re drinking a bottle of fluids every hour, you should be 1/3 of the way done after 20 minutes and 2/3 done after 40 minutes.

  • Don’t fall behind! When you make the mistake of not taking in enough calories or fluids, it becomes very difficult to dig your way out of the hole.

  • Water is NOT just for hydration – it’s a key ingredient in the digestive process.

  • Electrolytes – these need to be replaced… even more so if you are a heavy sweater!



Simply put, whatever was working the best for you in training should be the foundation for your race day plan.  The paces that you kept on your long swim/bike/runs should be what you target on race day (or maybe a little easier).  The foods and fluids that you ate and drank in training should be what you use on race day.  Stick to all of the things which worked best for you in training. 

#12 Ironman Wisdom

Respect the distance.  This is not an easy feat, so give yourself plenty of time to prepare for it – physically and mentally.  Regardless of the hurdles you face along the way, don’t ever stop believing in yourself and your ability to complete any race distance. 



Everybody has different reasons for hiring a triathlon coach.  Perhaps you are a beginner looking for basic guidance on navigating the potentially daunting world of triathlon, or perhaps you are an advanced athlete looking for accountability and an edge to propel you to the next level.  Either way, there is much to be said for the relative power of multiple people working towards a goal. Here are five top reasons why working with a coach can be a good idea.


Many athletes go out and do whatever they feel like on any given day.  They swim when they want to swim, bike when they want to bike and run when they want to run.  There is often little structure.  Although haphazard training like this can be conducive to a healthy lifestyle, it is not the best way to get faster. Good coaches will instil structure into your training in a scientifically proven way that will maximize your performance on race day.  They harness principles such as periodization, specificity and peaking to construct a macrocycle that will allow you to get the most out of your training.   And what is more, you will not have to sweat the details—that is your coach’s job.  Which leads to the second reason you should hire a coach:


Boiler-plate training plans are difficult to stick to and are probably not ideal for anyone; however, developing your own idyllic training plan that fits your life but still covers everything you need to do to get faster can be difficult.  Apart from being technically difficult, building your own schedule often leads to anxiety that you're missing something.  This undermines your confidence and often leads to poor plan alterations and haphazard training. Having a coach takes the guesswork out of your scheduling, allowing you to have one sole focus: getting the training done.  This is mentally liberating and allows you to channel your energy into nailing workouts--not worrying about if you're doing the right thing on any given day.


By their very nature, triathletes tend to be disciplined individuals who have the ability to get it done on their own; however, that doesn't mean it's easy.  Discipline requires will-power, which is a finite resource and even the best of us can slip up.  Having a coach invested in your success and monitoring your workouts simply makes it easier to tackle your workouts.  You never think "do I really need to do this today?" or "nobody will know if I skip this last interval or session."  When you have someone holding you accountable, those little voices subside and it is much easier to simply get it done.


Good coaches have been through the ropes.  They should be experts in all things triathlon, including swimming, biking, running, racing, nutrition, strength training, exercise science, kinematics, equipment, etc.  Their expertise should eliminate the learning curve for you.  Many people learn with trial and error, but having a coach can eliminate a lot of those trials so that you have fewer errors in training and racing.  A good coach will convey their knowledge and expertise to you in a distilled version, allowing you to learn exactly what you need to know in the most efficient manner possible.


It’s simple logic.  If:

-Your training is structured appropriately

-You can devote all your energy into simply nailing your workouts

-You’re more motivated to execute training

-And you have a coach who can guide you on your journey in the most efficient manner possible

Then you will get faster.

Which is exactly what we are all trying to do.



Winter Cycling Requires Motivation

Staying motivated over the winter months has to be the hardest thing as a cyclist in the UK. When it’s cold, windy or even raining it’s easy to just put off your riding time and sink into a nice warm and comfortable lack of training rut. Often the promise of a session on the turbo trainer becomes a reason not to join friends on that cold morning ride, and if you don’t enjoy the turbo trainer sessions your riding time slowly reduces to almost nothing.

If you want to keep hold of some of that fitness you’ve built up over spring/summer/autumn, it’s vital to keep riding over winter to avoid losing all of it and starting from scratch again in the new year. Whilst a week off the bike due to Sickness or Christmas commitments will not see any major de-training for most people it is important to keep doing some exercise. Whilst improving fitness takes dedication, maintaining existing fitness takes a lot less than you might think. So even if you can only fit in a short session on the turbo, a run before dinner or can only face a few days a week commuting by bike; it’s worth making all the small efforts to maintain overall fitness. At worst you’re maintaining, at best you’re improving, the most important thing is that you are still riding!

There are a number of challenges to overcome in the winter months: Cold, Dark, Wet, Windy, Snow, Ice and Corrosive road salt.

For ice I would never recommend anyone head out onto ice, that’s a surefire way to a crash (been there done that) and possible injury. Snow is not that bad, if you have mountain bike or cyclocross tyres better still. It feels a lot like mud until it gets too deep to ride through. If it’s snowing and you want to ride, you could always head out on the mountain bike, that can be good fun too.

Cold, dark and the wet can all be overcome very easily with what I will call “the correct gear”. Mudguards, waterproof overshoes, insulated and waterproof gloves and correct clothing options to balance temperature with rain protection and breathability. Bike lights are now as bright as a car’s headlights, so the open roads are now open all hours; though you might want to limit your distance to fit within your light’s battery life.

Mind games

The correct gear is the easy bit, and buying it acts in overcoming the most difficult bit, the motivation and desire to get out there on the cold wet rainy morning. You’re going to need to test those new bits that you bought as a reward for cycling through the winter aren’t you. If you really ask yourself why you haven’t ridden as much over winter as you did through autumn it’s because you don’t want to and have found enough excuses to satisfy your conscience. The more you head out into the winter weather the less you are scared of it and the more normal it becomes, rain always sounds worse than it feels, and wind is a good work out, and that’s the point of a training ride right?

Now a few thoughts on the daily winter mind battle with motivation, you know you’ll love it when you get out there, you just need to get out there first.

“I’ll not be cycling today because it’s raining” – But you’ve got full windproof lycra bib tights that were designed to keep you warm in this weather and will dry very quickly should it stop. Why did you buy waterproof over shoes and those expensive waterproof gloves if you’re not going to use them? You have a waterproof jacket that you take everywhere with you stuffed into your pocket, now is the time you wear it. That collection of cycling caps you’ve been collecting are made for this very moment, put one under your helmet, peak down, and let the rain run off the peak away from your eyes, and don’t forget the mudguards you put on your bike for this very day.

“I think it’s too cold to cycle today” – But you’ll be warm and possibly even sweating in 5 minutes time, and after that your core body temperature will feel warm for hours. You’ll warm up quicker cycling than you will by taking the car, and you’ll have to scrape the ice of your windscreen and that takes ages.

“It looks dark outside, perhaps too dark to cycle ?“ – Cycle lights have never been so bright, Some even say too bright! for under £100 you can get an amazing set of lights, good enough to see and be seen on even the unlit back roads and off road tracks. That’s £100 towards your safety and your enjoyment, this is not an excuse anymore, get on your bike!

“It’s windy today, looks like hard work” – Is it gale force winds? Is it dangerous? No? Then it’ll be a good work out, long grinding miles of seated effort. It’ll feel like an alpine col (only without the stunning view) get out there quick, the mountain has finally come to you!

“The roads are covered with salt, and it’ll ruin my bike” – Not if you wash it it won’t. By far the best thing you can do in these conditions is to make the most of your mileage, if your bike’s already dirty and you’re going to have to wash it, ride all day. Ride until your bike lights are nearly flat and wash your bike by head torch; for a thorough wash feels deserved after making the most of it.

“I’m not able to ride, I have to go to work” - Plan ahead, take your work clothes and wash kit in to work the day before, lots of work places have shower facilities these days or failing that a good old wash in the sink (it’s all people had not so long ago). Then commute, it’s an easy way of adding a few miles to your weekly total and with traffic how it is, it probably won’t take too much longer either. Oh and it saves you money too.

I know this can all sound really easy and I know it’s not but believe me it really is worth the effort. So it’s time to get your winter bike out the garage put some air back in the tyres, lube that chain and embrace the winter weather and remember,  “It’s never as bad out as you think”

Inspire Yourself
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