Between Training and Jet Lag

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As you might already know, I just returned from a week long trip to London with my family. Because of Daylight Savings Time, England is only four hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. That doesn’t sound like a lot and should make for an easy adjustment to the new time zone: all you have to do is try to sleep a little on the red eye flight, and then do your best to stay up until about eight o’clock the next day thereby giving you a full day awake so you can sleep the next night. Presto! You’ve adjusted to the time change.

Well, none of that happened. We had over two hours of really terrible turbulence that shook me awake whenever I tried to sleep, so I stayed awake on the plane for the entire flight until ten minutes before landing. Yes, the landing gear touching the ground woke me up with a snort. I stumbled around the train stations to our flat and promptly went to bed for three hours, starting at 8am. That was not my intent, but I simply couldn’t function without some sleep.

I did pack one pair of running clothes and wore my running shoes in the hopes that I would go for a run around Battersea Park, but that didn’t happen. For the entire week we were there, I couldn’t fall asleep before 2am and wanted to sleep until noon (although I begrudgingly woke up at 8am with my alarm).

So, if you are planning a race abroad or in a different time zone, plan to arrive to the location early, preferably a week prior to the event to allow your body time to adjust. I know I didn’t feel like getting up and going for a training run until the Friday we were leaving. And, if you can’t arrive that early, give yourself a break. Same goes for any training while traveling. If you are simply too tired, rest. A much needed break from your workouts may be in order. The same rules apply upon your return home: sleep and rest.

Why You Should Join Masters Swimming

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Upper Dublin High School Pool in Fort Washington, PA 

Into the the great wide open. / Under them skies of blue.  That’s what open water swimming is like–no walls, no lane lines, no cold tile, no chlorine, no flip turns, nobody around. Just you and the open water. There may be a shark or two lurking near the dolphins, but that doesn’t bother you. Jellyfish? Smellyfish. You’ve got vinegar in your swim bag. Tangled up in seaweed? Whatever. It’s the great wide open water. You’re a rebel with a clue and a swim buoy. Maybe you’ve got a few friends nearby as you wave to the fish nibbling your feet.

Open water swimming makes you feel invincible and vulnerable at the same time. I know I don’t belong in the ocean or lake because I have lungs, but I swim there anyway to prove that I can enter that wide open world–and that’s when I feel vulnerable. I’m a tiny human barely breaking the surface of the vast ocean as I swim, tossed aside by waves and pushed off course by currents larger than my understanding. It’s awesome. But, you can’t swim in open water year round if you live in a colder climate.

So, instead of hitting the pool by yourself, which can be incredibly boring, I highly recommend you jump in with a US Masters swim team. Here’s why:

  1. You will get faster. In the few months I’ve been swimming with the masters group, my 100 yard repeats have dropped by 15 seconds! Crazy, right? I’m not too far off of the times from my competitive swimming days either.
  2. You’ll befriend like-minded swimming buddies. Maybe on the days you don’t have practice, you can meet your swim friends at the local pool?
  3. You can compete in swim meets. Even if you love the open water, there’s something about going fast, really fast. All you do is enter a meet, enter times for your events (or not), and swim! Heck, you’ll even get a t-shirt just like in running. You’ll be inspired by all of the different ages and levels of swimmers at a meet.
  4. You will be a better all around swimmer by swimming all of the strokes in a structured workout: butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke, and of course, freestyle. If all you ever swim is freestyle, you’re missing out on being an all-around strong swimmer.
  5. You’ll have fun. Group workouts with red line runs, jumping jacks in the pool, fun stroke drills, diving off the blocks, practicing drafting (which you’ll use in an open water race)–you’ll feel like a kid again.
  6. You’ll realize that this is truly a sport you can do for the rest of your life. In the video below for the 50 yard freestyle, I’m in lane 5, but look at lane 4–that guy is 72 years old, and he almost beat me! He is on my team and kicks my butt on most days for our masters swim workouts, but still. He’s not stopping, so I won’t either.

Swim on and swim happy on a masters team! Here’s the link to find a masters team near you in the US. Keep in mind that there are masters teams all over the world.

Click here to find a US Masters Team by you.

 

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Tri it Forward

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The 2018 Triathlon Race Season is almost here! If you have friends who are interested in the sport of triathlon, or if you are new to the sport yourself, click on the link at the bottom of this post and tri it forward!

And, if you’re like me, you like free stuff. Who doesn’t? To get two free weeks of triathlon training, message, email, or call me at 610-241-4164 to get started. You have to be brand new to the sport of triathlon or have competed in a few races at the sprint distance and want to improve.


Tri It Forward

 

Training for the Swim in Triathlon

 

Swimming is the shortest segment of the triathlon and typically the weakest for most triathletes. Many athletes only want to survive the swim so they can move on to the bike and run; however, if they spend a little more time on the swim in training, they can greatly improve their overall time and maybe even make it on the podium for their age group.

A structured workout is key every time you enter the pool and even for open water. Whatever workout you choose to do, it’s important to remember to train like a distance swimmer. As a triathlete, you are a distance swimmer. Got it? Good. By that I don’t mean to hop in the pool and swim 2000-3000 yards continuously because that will only make you good at swimming long and slow.

Distance swimmers train the all of the body’s systems by doing different workouts and sets within the workouts: endurance (aerobic), speed (mostly aerobic, but some faster paces), form (aerobic with a focus on drills), force (pulling or using paddles with the buoy), muscular endurance (lactate threshold), distance (half IM or IM race pace), and anaerobic endurance (very fast swimming or all out swimming). Source: Swim Workouts for Triathletes by Gale Bernhardt and Nick Hansen.

So, what does all of this mean? It means that each swim workout has multiple moving parts. Here’s an example of a good distance swimmer’s workout for triathletes:

Warm Up: 400 easy, 200 pull, 200 kick, 8x25s 1/2 FAST 1/2 EASY on 30s

This warm up gets the muscles moving and focuses on form with the kick and 25s. The pull is the force part of the workout. 

Main Set:

12x100s descending

#1-4 are on 2 min or less, and for each set of 4x100s, drop 5 seconds from the time you will leave on. So if you start at 2 min, the next set of 4 will be on 1:55… Rest for 30 seconds after these 4x100s.

#5-8 are on 1:55 or 1:50. Rest for 30 seconds after all 4x100s.

#9-12 are on 1:50 or 1:45. Rest for 30s.

This set is all about muscular endurance to anaerobic threshold near the end. Be sure to use the clock to keep track of when you are supposed to leave for the next 100.  

2x300s at IM pace. Rest for 20s in between. This is the distance part of the workout.

Cool Down:

200 stroke, your choice, but NO FREESTYLE

Total Distance: 3000 yards

Each workout should include a warm up of 500-1000 yards of slower swimming, drills, kicks, and pulls, a main set of 1500-2000 yards to focus on speed, endurance, etc., and a cool down of a few hundred yards. Make sure to mix it up and challenge yourself, and you’ll find that you’ll be swimming faster in a few months.

For open water swimming, it’s important to warm up for about 400 yards, sighting every 6-9 strokes. After the warm up, swim the distance you planned, whether it’s 800 or 5000 yards, but vary your stroke like this:

Open Water Swim (OWS) Workout:

5 minutes warm up

10 minutes at T pace (IM or Half IM pace)

5 minutes easy stroke with strong kick

10 minutes increase speed and build

5 minutes easy stroke with strong kick

10 minutes build

5 minutes easy swimming

This is approximately 50 minutes of open water swimming, so increase it as needed. 

 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Many of the runners and triathletes I coach are strong women who work hard to accomplish their goals–whether it’s getting up for a 5am run, training for their first triathlon, or preparing for the Chicago Marathon. These are only a few of the women who inspire me to keep going every day. I’m so glad my mom encouraged me and my sister to pursue sports–she’s the original Greek athlete in the family who played football in the street as a kid and now challenges herself in cycling races today. She’s Sophia’s Yiayia, and she kicks butt every single day.

So, to all of the strong women out there, and that means ALL of you, today is your day. Get out there and show yourself what you’ve got!

Training with Heart Rate Zones

 

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Training with heart rate zones may seem overwhelming at first, but once you understand your zones, you can properly train for any endurance sport. Get out your calculators or put on your thinking caps for the rest of this blog post. Let’s do some math!

 

First of all, find your resting heart rate. Without a heart rate monitor, you’ll need to take your HR (heart rate) before you get out of bed every morning for seven days. Take your heart rate for a full minute in the carotid artery. At the end of the week, find the average out of seven days. Mine is 59 bpm (beats per minute).
Secondly, to find your max heart rate without a VO2 max test, which you can do if you choose: run a hard workout such as 6×800 repeats on the track with 2 minutes rest in between while you wear a HR monitor. Look for the max HR after uploading your workout. Mine is 185 bpm and may spike higher, which is different than the standard 220-your age.
Third, calculate your HR reserve. Here’s the formula:
Max HR – Resting HR = HR Reserve
For example, mine is 185-59= 126 bpm for Heart Rate Reserve.
You can base your training on heart rate reserve or a percentage of your max HR.
                                                      Max HR %                         HR Reserve %
VO2 Max (Zone 5)                          93-95                                91-94
Lactate Threshold (Zone 4)         82-91                                77-88
Marathon Pace (Zone 3)               79-88                                73-84
Long Run (High Zone 2)               74-84                                65-78
General Aerobic (Zone 2)             70-81                                62-75

Recovery (Zone 1)                          <76                                    <70

To calculate HR Reserve:
(HR Reserve x percent from table) + Resting HR = HR Reserve for zone
Example from my numbers:
(126 x .77) + 59 = 156     156 bpm (for the lower range of zone 4)
You would do the calculations for the whole range, so here it is for the higher end of zone 4:
(126 x .88) + 59 = 179
So, my range for zone 4 HR Reserve training would be 156-179 bpm. I usually train by percent of max HR, so that is just taking a percent of your max for the ranges. Therefore, for my lactate threshold of zone 4, I would be in this range: 157-168 bpm. Please note that these calculations are for running.
For cycling, everything is about 8 bpm lower in all of the ranges. To set it up manually on Garmin from Garmin Connect–first login and then click on your device:
1. Go to your device
2. Device settings
3. User Settings
From here, you can add HR zones that are customized for you. You’ll have three choices: Percent of max HR, HR Reserve, or Percent of Lactate Threshold. Garmin calculates it automatically, or you can manually change it around based on your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). I originally had Garmin calculate the percent of HR Reserve, and then adjusted it manually a little higher because zone 2 felt too easy.
Here are a few things you should know when using heart rate to train: heart rate is useless if you are doing short sprints on the track or on the bike. It takes too long for your heart to recognize that it needs to work harder, which is why you see a spike in the recovery phase of really hard and short efforts. Go by rate of perceived exertion or by time for really, really short distances.
I also want to mention that for swimming, your heart rate zones will also be different, which is why I use rate of perceived exertion for swimming as well as timed intervals and train all of my athletes as long distance swimmers, but that’s another blog post. Not to mention that looking at your watch on the swim, if you can actually see it, messes up your swimming form, which doesn’t make this coach happy. If you wear a HR strap during the swim, analyze your heart rate later on and write down notes about how you felt on the swim for comparison.
Remember, your numbers will be unique to you and your training. With HR training, you will eventually become more efficient at each zone so that you’ll see your pace increase while your HR stays the same. It takes about six weeks to see progress, following the 80/20 rule where 80% of your workouts are in zone 2 and 20% are in zone 4. Train slower to race faster. It’s also true for ALL endurance sports. Happy training! And be sure to comment below with questions.
References and further reading: 
80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald
Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas (where all of the heart rate charts are from)
Be IronFit by Don and Melanie Fink
Daniel’s Running Formula by Jack Daniels (if you only get one book on running, this is it)
Joe Friel also has excellent books and online resources, so check him out too!

Cold Weather Cycling

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OK. So there was this one day that the temperature reached 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Yeah, it felt like spring. I even needed sunscreen, but forgot to put it on and ended up with early season cycle chick tan lines. When it’s that warm outside, all you need is a cycling jersey and a pair of bike shorts, and you’re good to go. However, when the temperatures drop, like they have since the dreaded Nor’easter hit the Philadelphia area and the whole East Coast, you’re going to need some layers beyond the basic bike gear of a helmet, glasses (not just regular sunglasses, but special cycling ones to project your eyes from debris), chamois butter, and padded gloves. It’s important to note that whatever the temperature is outside, it feels about 10 degrees colder on the bike.

70 degrees F and up: All you need is a lightweight jersey and bike shorts. If it’s closer to 80-90 degrees F, test out your tri kit and remember to wear sunscreen, even when it’s freezing outside.

50-70 degrees F: Start layering. Consider a long-sleeved jersey, long pants, thicker socks, and possibly gloves.

40-50 degrees F: Thermal layer underneath bike jersey, long pants, gloves, a buff for your face, and foot covers.

40 degrees and below: Prepare for Arctic conditions. Two layers under your jersey, long pants with possible thermal underwear, shoe covers, buff, hat, gloves. And ride fast in order to reach your destination sooner.

That’s all for now! I’m planning on doing a post on what you carry in your saddle bag, so comment below!

First Ride with Ikaika

 

Seventy-six degrees in February with the sun shining is rare weather indeed. I glanced at my schedule for the following day–dental appointment, friends to call, and training plans to write. I lied to open up the whole day: I wanted to be outside on my new bike, and I wanted to enjoy all of it by myself since it was my first outdoor ride on Ikaika.

I carefully placed Ikaika on my bike transport mobile (BTM), securing the straps and checking for any movement on the bike rack. The bare branches chattered in the spring-like breeze; a few tentative crocuses popped up overnight in the flower beds, giving the gray and brown landscape some color. Songbirds cheered me on my way to the trail I planned to ride in order to test Ikaika’s speed and handling.

Once I found a parking spot at the trailhead, I glanced to view Ikaika through the rear view mirror–I was ready. I hopped on, and once I found my groove, I settled into a comfortable gear, keeping my hands on the hoods for more stability. Ikaika and I flew down the trail with ease–my feet pushed and pulled the pedals in perfect circles, churning Ikaika’s tires the quicker I went. She is designed for speed.

So, this is how fast feels–the trees flickering by like a film on a reel, casting long shadows across the path. So this is what speed is–gliding through the light and shadows, the sounds of the train warped by the Doppler effect. So this is cycling. I am in love, and I don’t ever want it to end.