Winter is always a time of digging deep and putting in the ground work for the upcoming season. We all struggle to find motivation for a 3 hour turbo or a late-night run but it’s important to remember your goals and keep going. Medals are won in the winter after all!
My winter training has been proceeding well. I’m managing to juggle studying whilst getting solid blocks of training in, which is easier said than done. It’s my first year in Manchester studying dentistry and the initial adjustment to living away from home combined with a demanding course was hard but I seem to have it under control at the moment...Just about.
Unfortunately, Manchester University doesn’t have its own triathlon team but I haven’t let that hinder my training.
When I first arrived in the city I trained to get a grasp of life up north. It’s not easy motivating yourself for a 6am lonely swim session so I soon signed up for the City of Manchester Swim Team and have been training with them for the past few months. The coach at City is great and has given me a whole new meaning to the word swimming... I didn’t know a kick set lasting an hour could exist!
I’m also training alongside the University's cycling and athletics clubs which is definitely pushing my capabilities as a multi-sport athlete, although I do have to admit that this winter I haven’t been very brave and a lot of my bike miles have been spent on the dreaded turbo.
I have my fair share of mental battles when it comes to training so I thought I’d share some top tips for staying motivated this winter:
1) Set your 2018 season goals now and use them as motivation when you are about to snooze your morning alarm or head home early from a long run or ride.
2) Join a triathlon team or join multiple single discipline clubs to enable you to train with others.
No one is ever going to be up for a 3 hour bike ride alone but add in friends and a cafe stop and riding has a whole different meaning.
3) Plan your week and follow a structured programme.
It’s a lot easier to stay on track with training when you have your weeks mapped out, planning for your work/study/social life. You will soon get into a good routine and pre-planned days off remove any feelings of guilt that us triathletes suffer from.
3) Get the right kit!
There is nothing worse than getting in from a run and having no feeling in your hands and feet or leaving the swimming pool shivering. Invest in some good warm kit this winter and make training in the cold that little bit easier. I know I can always rely on my trusty Sundried kit to keep me toasty.
4) Sign up for some races! Just because the triathlon season is over it doesn’t mean you can’t spice up your weekend with the odd cyclocross and cross-country race.
5) Most importantly, have fun!
It’s easy to get caught up in the triathlon trap of training because you feel like you have to. Treat training as a chance to unwind from work, make memories, and spend time with friends.
That’s all from me for now.
Have a great winter’s build and keeping smiling!
If you spend a lot of time training at high altitude in a mountainous region, would your performance be better racing at sea level? How do you train to race at high altitude? These questions and more will be answered as we explore the performance differences between training at high altitude vs sea level.
How does altitude training work?
Altitude training works because the air is thinner. As the air is thinner at high altitude, with every breath you take you are delivering less than usual amounts of oxygen to your muscles. Your muscles need oxygen to work optimally, so less oxygen means your body needs to work harder to get the same results. There have been many studies done to try to determine if altitude training works, and if so, how high an athlete would need to train, but research is ongoing.
So what is considered 'high altitude'? There are many differing opinions, but the most common is that any altitude above sea level beyond 3000m (9840 feet) is considered “high” altitude, with 500-2000m being “low” altitude and 2000-3000m being “moderate” altitude. Anything above 5500m (think Mount Kilimanjaro) is considered “extreme” altitude!
There are cities in South America, like La Paz in Bolivia, which are situated at this 'extreme altitude' where the air is much thinner than at sea level and the locals have adapted to the conditions. So, if an athlete were to train consistently in a city like La Paz, would they be faster when racing at sea level because of their better conditioned lungs and muscles? Well, in order to imitate the conditions found in such extreme altitudes, many athletes train with altitude masks. So, do they work?
Do high altitude training masks work?
Altitude training masks work by reducing the airflow to the lungs. In reality, they don't actually simulate high altitude because they do not reduce the atmospheric pressure, and instead simply reduce the oxygen intake in the same way running with a straw in your mouth would (definitely don't do this!)
It would take months or even years of training in a high altitude city like La Paz to notice the benefits of high altitude training. Unfortunately, training in a high altitude mask would not have these effects. There actually isn't any evidence whatsoever that training in an altitude mask benefits your athletic performance. However, actually training at high altitude can.
How long do the effects of high altitude training last?
Experts have agreed that training at 2200m for 4 weeks is optimal altitude training. Once you finish your training, the effects of the reduced oxygen on your blood and muscular endurance can last up to 2 weeks. So, is it worth it? Well, if you're a serious athlete looking to push your own boundaries and are looking for any way to improve your training, finding a training camp in the Alps or other mountainous regions could be beneficial, but the effects will wear off eventually.
We all know it's important to rest, but sometimes you just want to move! So, how often should I take a complete rest day? We take a look at the best advice.
Some professional athletes can train up to 40 hours a week without over-exerting themselves. However, someone who is just getting into fitness should take it easy and listen to their body. Think about how long you've been training and how often you usually train. If you are pushing yourself harder than usual, make sure you're not going over your limit. Everyone is different and should follow training plans designed specifically for them; what works for one person might not work for you. If you know that you can train for a week straight without taking a rest day, you should be fine. However, as soon as your results start to suffer and your training is not as efficient as usual, this is when you need to take a complete rest day.
How do your legs feel?
We've all suffered the dreaded DOMS at one point in our lives. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the result of strenuous activity and the leg muscles being torn through exertion and then repairing themselves to become bigger and stronger. Whether you've got DOMS from a tough gym session or a big bike ride, it is never advisable to train again on sore legs. If you are really itching to get back out there, read our article on how to reduce DOMS in the legs. It is possible to injure yourself if you overtrain when you have DOMS, so this is usually a sign that you need a complete rest day.
Are you sleeping well?
A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 150 minutes of exercise per week (30 minutes per day over 5 days) is all it takes to improve the quality of your sleep. However, one of the first signs that you need a rest day is if you are not sleeping well. If you have been exercising consistently without a rest day for more than 5 days and you find you are not sleeping well, you should take a complete rest day to let your body properly recover.
Do you feel like you have the energy you need?
Whatever your motivations to train, forcing yourself to get out there when energy levels are low can be a real blow to morale. There are ways you can eat to boost your energy or, if you feel like you have plenty of energy at the start of the day but then soon become lacklustre, here are 4 ways to boost your energy from the experts at Harvard. If you are feeling very sluggish, this may well be a sign that you need a complete rest day. Never force yourself to do a training session that you really don't want to do, so long as the rest of the time your training is consistent.
What are the signs of overtraining?
Do you know what the signs of overtraining are? If not, read our article on overtraining. If you're still unsure on why rest days are important, read our article on fitness recovery and the importance of rest days.
If you do feel like you might be getting injured, here are our tips for dealing with running injuries.
Winter training doesn't have to be a chore and it'll really pay off in the spring. Follow these top tips to make sure you get the most out of your turbo trainer sessions and above all else, are comfortable.
Follow a plan.
Make sure the miles you're putting in are going to count; mindlessly pedalling for hours on end won't get you results. Cycling indoors on a turbo trainer is vastly different to cycling outdoors as you won't have the ever-changing terrain and demanding climbs. Follow a varied and challenging plan that suits you and your goals.
Set up some music or TV if you can to relieve the boredom. You could even watch an old road race or competitive cycling online to feel extra inspired. Some sites will even allow you to follow an outdoor simulation so that you feel like you're cycling outdoors and up mountains.
Use a fan.
Get the biggest fan you can afford because you'll sweat even in the coldest of rooms. Get a sweat catcher or towel to protect your frame and bars from the drips.
Chances are you'll drink more when on a turbo trainer than when you're cycling outdoors, especially if you're sweating a lot. Plan ahead and make sure you have access to plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated.
If using your turbo trainer indoors, get a yoga mat or something similar to reduce the noise. Your family and neighbours will thank you!
One thing that all triathletes can agree upon is that winter training is the worst. Frozen fingers, numb toes, and the dreaded 'winter miles' come around every year but somehow it never gets easier. That's why here at Sundried we've come up with 10 ways to make winter training more bearable. So button up and don't lose hope just yet.
1. Invest in a great pair of gloves.
One of the worst parts of cycling outdoors in winter is frozen fingers. Cycling doesn't raise the core temperature in the same way running does and it's the extremities which suffer! Make sure you have a great pair of winter gloves at your disposal to combat against the pain of numb fingers. The Sundried winter gloves are made from 90% bamboo and are naturally great at insulating your hands without making your palms sweaty. They also feature silicon grippers to the palms so that you won't slip on wet handlebars. If cold weather gloves still aren't enough, try a pair of more heavy duty ski gloves.
2. Find an indoor set up that works for you.
Don't feel like you have to do all of your winter miles outdoors and suffer through the cold. A lot of Sundried ambassadors train indoors in the winter and this is a very common thing for a lot of triathletes. You have lots of options when it comes to training indoors, from using a spin bike at your gym to investing in a Wattbike or a Turbo Trainer. Find what works best for you and the set up you like best. Sundried ambassador and Team GB Triathlete Paul Suett has his turbo trainer set up in his garage, while fellow Team GB Triathlete Laura Rose Smith has hers in the house. So long as you make it work for you and you're comfortable, that's all that matters.
Use the tactic of layering up and utilise it to your advantage. Packable outerwear like the Sundried water-resistant jacket is perfect for outdoor winter miles because you can wear it to protect your from the elements, and then take it off and pack it away easily if you get too warm. The Sundried Grand Casse outdoor jacket packs away into its own little bag which you can clip onto you or your bike when you don't need it and whip it back out if it starts raining or even snowing. Wearing lots of layers means you can adjust your warmth and coverage throughout your ride.
4. Do a thorough warm-up.
If you start your ride cold, chances are you won't really warm up at all. Sometimes in summer we can be hot and sweaty before we even start a training session and it's easy to cut the warm up short. In winter, make sure you do a very thorough warm up so that your blood is pumping and your heart rate and core temperature are high before you even start. This will give you and your body a better chance out against the elements.
5. Make the miles count.
Don't head out and do 'junk' miles just because you think you have to. Make each mile count, and if you don't think the session will benefit you because you have a cold or the weather is particularly bad, decide whether it's actually better to skip that session all together or perhaps do a different type of training instead.
6. Don't go it alone.
Being motivated to train alone can be hard at the best of times, but particularly difficult in winter. If you don't usually ride with friends or a club, see if you can find one to join, if only for a few months. Most towns have a local cycling club who will be willing to welcome you warmly to the team. Cycling together will help to while away the hours out on the road and it'll mean you'll have team mates to help you if you experience any problems out there. Even a friend or family member to cycle with could make all the difference.
7. Don't be too hard on yourself.
Winter is a difficult time of year for everyone, from the short days and cold weather to the seasonal depression and winter illnesses, it affects us all. You'll never do your best training in winter and it will be really tough to stay motivated, so remember why you first started doing this and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible! Hopefully your motivation will thaw out in the spring.