Friday, 25 November 2016

Trev's 3 Favourite Running Tips

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Trev's 3 Favourite Tips 
(Part 2 of 3) 
Click Here to read part 1

Part 2: Running

Shoe laces: How frustrating is it when your shoe laces come undone and you're forced to stop and re-tie them? Okay, I hear your comments about elastic laces not coming undone, but having elastic laces in training shoes is not recommended. My reasoning for this is that elastic laces allow too much movement of the shoe upper which could compromise the stability of the foot strike. If these laces are used for both racing and training the mileage racked up with potentially less than ideal foot stability could lead to an injury. By me making this statement it is clear that my recommendation is for elastic laces to be used for racing and rigid laces to be used for training. Getting back to the frustrating dilemma of self untying laces and how to prevent it. Your laces are unlikely to become untied during an easy recovery run, when it would not matter too much, but are likely to when you are on a PB or during the winter when you really want to keep your fingers inside those warm thermal gloves (if your luck is anything like mine). So what to do? You could simply tie a double knot (I have had double knots come undone on me) or you could try this tip:




Lace some elastic lacing through the 3rd and 4th row of eyelets from the top. Tie off with a Reef Knot. Do NOT make the elastic tight. It should not hold firmer than the rigid laces will. Tie your laces as per normal and tuck the bows and loose ends under the elastics. No guarantees, but this has worked for me for many years.

(Thanks to the MTB fraternity, I saw this system on some MTB shoes assuming it was to keep the laces out the chain rings etc...it works.)


Wet shoes: How many times have you reached for your shoes the day after a run in the rain only to be putting you warm dry feet into soggy shoes. Not a very comfortable moment is it? The easy, but more costly tip is to have 2 pairs of running shoes so you can rotate periodically, or you could try this tip:


Stuff paper that has a high absorption rate; news paper, kitchen paper towelling etc..., into your wet shoes. Allow it to draw up moisture until it seems saturated then replace with fresh paper. Repeat as many times as necessary.




Then remove the final round of paper, remove laces and inner soles, and leave the shoes in a warm area. This will allow all components to dry faster than leaving them in the shoe. Avoid leaving your shoes on a hot radiator or in front of a fire as the high heat has the potential to cause damage that may compromise the function of the shoe.




Low temperatures: Now that winter is setting in (UK readers), and our central heating is starting to keep us comfortable, we have the tendency to think that the lowering outdoor temperatures are colder than what they are. Due to this greater indoor-outdoor temperature difference we end up over dressing for our runs. Out the door with base layer, running outer layer, jacket, beanie and gloves only to find that we are boiling in a bag 10 minutes down the road. Next cold run you are about to do try this tip:

                                                ☃❄❅❆⛄☃❄❅❆⛄☃❄❅❆⛄

Step outside in your regular clothing for a minute or so. Get a more accurate feel for the temperature then dress into your running kit allowing for the appropriate conditions. Dress for a temperature a few degrees warmer than it is. In the spring consider using a guide of around 10°C and around 5°C for the dead of winter. A word of warning: Don't under dress. Test this on short runs and find the limits you are comfortable with. Avoid overheating due to too many layers.

BE SAFE & DO TRI.
By Coach Trevor
If you are interested in being coached by Trevor or any other Tri Training Harder coach, please contact us by completing this from or contact us at coaching@tritrainingharder.com

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Monday, 14 November 2016

Trev's 3 favourite biking tips.

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In this series, Coach Trevor imparts some of his vast knowledge on cycling. Here he gives some top tips on looking after one of our most prized possessions: Your Bike.

Part 1: Bike.

Brake block alignment:

The correct way to align a brake block is to have a slight toe-in in relation to the rim and wheel rotation. If you are unfamiliar with the term 'toe-in' it basically means the front edge, in relation to the direction of travel, of the brake is slightly turned inward toward the rim. One of the most talked about benefits of having this toe-in setup correct is it helps to eliminate brake squeal (not always). You can buy some very nice tooling to get this setup correct, but if you don't have the tools and would like to get your setup sorted try this:



Use a band or strap that will offer a 1mm spacing. Put it around the back end of the brake block. Lightly apply the brake. Adjust the block so that the front edge is against the rim with the back edge keep off the rim by the spacer used. You can use a Velcro strap around the brake lever to lightly apply the brake so you can free up both hands to make the adjustments to the blocks. When set, tighten everything and remove the spacer. Check the brake action. You should be set to go.


CO2 freezing issues:

Do you use CO2 to inflate your tyres? Have you experienced the nozzle freezing onto the valve stem? If it's a YES then try this the next time you reach for the gas and get frozen:


Simply spray some of your drink onto the frozen parts and things should work a bit better.


Punctures:

A pain at the best of time, but unfortunately they come to all of us at some point or another. Changing an inner in the dark or during the winter has got to be one of the most frustrating things about cycling. On my race or training bike I will put up with it because it is part of our sport, but on my commute bike I try to avoid it like the plague. This tip won't work for everyone simply because it is a bit fiddly. You will need some used tyres, your new tyres and scissors. Now this tip may take a bit more of a description than the other 2 tips, but that is because there are a few more steps to getting it done. What this tip is about is doubling up on the tyre bead thickness to offer more puncture protection when performance is less of a concern. I have done this on 23, 25 and 28mm tyres and have found the 23 and 28mm combination works the best. First step is to cut away the sidewalls of the used 23mm tyres so you left with just the top bead. Insert this into the 28mm tyre. I have found that the 23mm's outside diameter fits well into the inside diameter of the 28mm tyre. Refit tyre and inner tube, to the rim, as per normal and inflate. If you don't have different size tyres you can still do this, but you will need to cut a piece out of the top bead inlay. After cutting the sidewalls away to create the inlay, insert it and measure what needs to be cut away. Cut a smaller amount on the first cut, check, and cut again until the fit is neat and without too big a gap. Use some silicone sealer to smooth the joint if needed. Allow the sealer to set then construct the wheel as per normal. No guarantees, but personal experience would suggest you are less likely to have a puncture. I used this setup for a year of weekly commutes that included 12miles of off road and I did not have a single flat. (the tyres only came off the rim for the purpose of the photo)




23mm tyre bead inserted into a 28mm tyre.



BE SAFE & DO TRI.

By Coach Trevor

If you are interested in being coached by Trevor or any other Tri Training Harder coach, please contact us by completing this from or contact us at coaching@tritrainingharder.com
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Friday, 11 November 2016

Tri Training Harder Race Team: Favourite Session Blog

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What does it take to be an elite age group athlete? 

What training sessions does a top age grouper do?


Below is a blog jointly written by Elaine, Jason, Danny and Dan of the Tri Training Harder Race Team detailing one of their favourite training sessions. This blog shows that it is hard work and dedication that brings the outstanding results that the race team athletes achieve.

Elaine


Swimming is, has always been, and probably always will be, my least favourite of the three triathlon disciplines, but there have been times when the degree of loathing I feel for it has reduced to something close to mild dislike. Like many people, I don’t enjoy doing what I do poorly, so the natural consequence of this is that when I am swimming (comparatively) well, my tolerance for the sport goes up. For me, there is a strong correlation between swimming a lot and swimming better, so ironically the more I do something I don’t enjoy, the more I am likely to enjoy doing it…
My boredom threshold for the pool has held steady at roughly an hour, from the days I was a 90 minute (or slower!) Ironman swimmer to my more recent races where I’ve consistently swum just under the 70 minute mark. Although in the past I have swum regular 5 – 6 km sets, it probably works better for me to swim more frequently, with each session clocking in at around an hour, than to swim fewer times in a week, with one monster session. I prefer sets composed of efforts of around 4 – 8 minutes, at a pace which is “comfortably uncomfortable” and which are separated by comparatively short rest intervals. I therefore dislike sets which call for “best effort” reps, with long (>90 seconds) recovery intervals or those with big blocks (>1500m) of continuous swimming and quite enjoy CSS sessions where my Tempo Trainer dictates I go on the next beep, leaving me little time to think too hard about anything other than breathing! Of course, I have to do a mix of all of these sessions, since unfortunately for me, Philip (my coach) doesn’t tend to place much importance on what I like to do, preferring instead to focus on what is best for my swimming!

Here is a recent swim session I actually enjoyed:

Warm Up:
400m Mixed stroke, 10 seconds recovery

2x100m Individual Medley, 15 seconds recovery

4x50m 25m fast, 25m easy

Main Set:

3x400m aiming to hold CSS effort, on the first and last 50m, up your stroke rate.

6x50m fast, 1-3 aiming to have a fast stroke rate, 4-6 with paddles keeping the same sort of rhythm as the first 4.

2x200m aiming to hold CSS effort, on the first and last 50m, up your stroke rate.

Cool Down:

300m Mixed stroke

Jason:


People often ask me which sessions I recommend to make big improvements on their run. I always tell them that you don't need to look much beyond the good old-fashioned Fartlek run. I believe this kind of session can reward you with good training gains across all distances from sprint to Ironman. It is one of my staple weekly training sessions around which all my other training is planned. This is for a couple of reasons; it requires a bit of organisation for me to fit it into my busy family and work life so my wife knows ahead of time that it’s her turn to bath and put our little boy to bed, and planning it around other hard swim/bike training sessions ensures that I am fresh for these other important workouts.

This year my Fartlek runs started in early March at about 60mins in duration, building up to a regular 2 hour Fartlek run. These are very tough – they might not look much on paper but don't let that fool you, by the time your cool down comes around you certainly feel like you have actually done a race!

My Fartlek run is always on a Thursday and I run the 16 miles home from work. This ensures that I get my long run in and that it's done on legs that have been busy all day at work, thereby simulating the long day you have already completed before the marathon in an Ironman. This gives me about 2 hours of running & teaches me to finish fast on tired legs. I can also test out run nutrition, making it then second nature on race day.

One of my favourite Fartlek runs is as follows:

Warm Up:

30 mins or 4 miles, gradually building to the pace that will be required in your first interval.

Main Set:

12 x 1minute at interval pace (800m pace) with 1 minute at goal IM marathon pace.

6mins easy running

5 mins @ marathon pace

30 mins @ Threshold pace (10k pace)

Cool Down:

10-15 mins warm down

Danny:


It probably comes as no surprise, given my background as 1500m/5km runner, that my favourite session is a set of 400m reps. Over the years the speed and quantity have changed from short and sharp (when I was younger) to now 12-16 reps in around 66-68secs.

People ask me "doesn't it get boring?" but honestly for me the answer is no. It is both simple and complex – to simply run 1 lap of the track is easy but to do evenly, smoothly, to not tighten up as you come around the top bend and try and relax down the home straight (which always seems to be longer than the back straight) to cross the line, legs burning, lungs clamouring for air, but you can't stop now, stand up, deep breathes walk around, you've only got 40secs till it starts again…
If you have a good rep it's great but if that is rep 5 of 16 then you may be about to have session of your life or suffer badly.

That to me is beautiful, to try and get that session right, on the limit, but not in the red. To do it well you need to know yourself, what you’re capable of, and have good technique. It is my Go To session when I want to see where I am at.

Warm up:


10-20mins of easy jogging, drills and strides

Main set:

12-16x400m @ 3km pace with 40-60secs recovery

Cool down:

10-20mins of easy jogging

Dan:


Now that we’re coming into our off season and will soon be into our base phase I feel its an appropriate time to share my favourite turbo session called “Turbo Overgearing”. The early, dark and cold nights are looming and much more time is spent on the turbo which sometimes in itself can be a painful thought. I find this turbo workout makes the time go fast and really helps with my pedal technique and leg strength. Anyone who says that there is no technique to pedaling is a numpty and it’s not all about going out and doing the same old miles without any thought. A lot of benefits can be made on the turbo and if like me have a young child who’s in bed at 7, it’s the perfect way to get in my bike training whilst listening to the baby monitor – well, it beats watching Emmerdale and EastEnders!

I have spent quite a bit of time on the turbo of late. Don’t get me wrong, there is a need to be out on the road riding but the turbo definitely has its place for a busy athlete. I love this workout and it is the Go To session I use in the base phase working on my technique and leg strength. I like to do this workout early in the week to lead me into my other rides so that I automatically think about applying the good habits, I’ve taught/reminded myself on the turbo.

Warm up:


5 minutes easy spinning into a further 5 minutes as 30 seconds high cadence / 30 seconds recovery.

Main set:

5 minutes as 90 seconds left leg focus / 90 seconds right leg focus / 2 minutes both legs really thinking about applying pressure on the whole pedal stroke not just on the down stroke. Try and visualize your leg scraping something off the bottom of your foot on the down stroke.

4 minutes 65-70rpm in the aero bars (nice and smooth)

1 minute high cadence

4 minutes sat up 60-65rpm

1 minute high cadence

Repeat the main set 3 times (remember to keep it smooth)

Cool down:

10 minutes easy spinning.
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Monday, 7 November 2016

Ollie Stoten South Pole Expedition

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Race Team Ultra-Runner Ollie Stoten has opted for a different off-season away from running, and has just embarked on an attempt to ski across Antarctica.


Ollie is part of a 6 man team that are undertaking a hugely ambitious expedition that only 6 people have ever completed. The team have been dropped by ski plane on the coastline of Antarctica on the Ronne Ice Shelf, and are making their way unsupported and unassisted towards the Geographic South Pole. Each man is hauling an individual pulk weighing around 160kg which contains everything they need to survive. The expedition has been intricately planned to the very last detail, using the newest and lightest technology and materials, and every last calorie planned and accounted for by Ollie.

Once the team hit the South Pole in late December or early January, they intend to pick up a resupply then will attempt to cross the highest point on the polar plateaux, the Titan Dome, before descending down the Shackleton Glacier, which has never been descended before, onto the Ross Ice Shelf. On arrival on the Ross Ice Shelf the team will need to find good enough ice to use as a runway to land a ski plane.

Ollie training on the cliffs of the Algarve

Ollie, a Doctor when not running or adventuring, started the selection process back in May 2015, and focussed his training from running to the polar expedition earlier this year after a successful race season.

The team have faced huge challenges en route form the harsh polar weather with temperatures down to -50, 100mph winds, crevasses, whiteout conditions, a climb from sea-level to 10,000ft, isolation from the outside world and the constant mental and physical battle of manhauling their pulls over the ice.

The team on a training expedition in Norway

The team are hoping to raise £100,000 for the ABF, The Soldier’s Charity, as a consequence of the expedition. You can follow it here on the website http://www.spear17.org/, Facebook (@SPEAR17org), Twitter (@SPEAR17org), or Instagram (teamSPEAR17).



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Thursday, 3 November 2016

Swim Focus

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Our new coaches are currently being introduced to how a Tri Training Harder coach approaches coaching a group and our Swim Clinics are now under way with more dates to come over the coming weeks until Christmas.

Here are some thoughts from Head Coach Alan Ward ahead of this weekends Swim Clinic.

--

It is likely many triathletes are currently spending time focusing on their biggest performance limiter. For some athletes this may be the ability to tolerate training load without injury, or it may be their running technique, but for many it will be focused on their swimming.

So, how should you invest your time as wisely as possible? In my opinion, it has become clear that many athletes have a misunderstanding of where to focus their efforts. By focus I mean what do you try to work on in the pool, what part of your swim performance do you spend the most amount of time on?

Take cycling, for example, if you spent 100% of your time working on cycling skills/technique, you may be amazing around corners and at pulling wheelies and skids (which are all fantastic amount of fun!) but you wouldn't have the ability to push down hard on the pedals. Generally, it is accepted that roughly 80% of cycling time is spent at lower intensities. This could mean working on aerobic endurance, strength, skills, technique and then other 20% could be spent on hill reps, intervals and sweet-spot work.

In Parallel, with swimming it can be split across CSS-pace work, endurance-pace work, speed work, strength sets, mental toughness sets, open water skills and technique sessions. 

But we know that swimming is deemed to be the most technically demanding of the three disciplines. It leads to a lot of searching for understanding and correct execution of this mysterious 'perfect' technique. I want to challenge what you currently perceive, how you 'think' you should swim and how you do it.

1. There is no such thing as perfect technique
2. There is only the right technique for 'you'
3. You need to understand and develop your own mental cues/self-talk for your technique

A lot of this focus is directed towards this thing called the 'catch' as this is how you set yourself up for the rest of the stroke. This is where you get a 'feel' for the water, literally grab onto it and lever yourself through it.

This advice is the traditional focus of swim technique to be found in magazine articles, books, websites, blogs, videos even educational literature. The outcome of this is a generation of triathletes who are all over-focusing on the wrong part of the stroke. This part is critical: I am not saying don't ever consider it, I am asking you to challenge where you place the emphasis of your thoughts. Let's break it down:

1. Kicking is widely accepted to give 10-15% of propulsion in freestyle swimming
2. The first 1/3 of the arm cycle from maximum extension to around the line of the head (a.k.a The 'Catch') accounts for around 5% of propulsion in freestyle swimming
3. The second 2/3 of arm cycle from the line of the head until the hand exits the water accounts for around 80% of propulsion
4. Rotation has a potentially multiplying effect on the propulsion effect of the arm cycle and the duration of time spent applying power. Rotation has a multiplying effect on both point 2 and 3. In other words the impact can be huge if both timed and utilised correctly. Note, this is not the degree of rotation but the correct timing of rotation and degree of rotation for your stroke.


So if the maths above is correct, which it is to a degree (the precise accuracy may be debatable), a lot of swimmers believe that they must focus on an area that gives them 5% of their propulsion. That is a pretty substantial focus on marginal gains. 

It is not only the marginal nature that doesn't make sense it is the psychological effect on stroke execution. To generalise, the vast majority of triathletes have a perfectionist and competitive nature with a lack of basic neuromuscular coordination. So they are trying to achieve something incredibly subtle and graceful such as the rise and fall of the Waltz, by approaching it with muscle and gritted teeth whilst having their weight displaced by being in a foreign environment: water. 

When you swim, all of the mental cues are focused on the front end of your stroke. This leads to an incredible amount of overthinking, slow movement, determination and tension in a part of the stroke at the front end where movement, softness, and flexibility are incredibly important to achieve good positioning. Whenever you try to acquire a new skill, ideally you progress from the slow-and-thoughtful to the fast-and-automated. With swimming, however, focusing thinking your way through the catch leads to paralysis by analysis! It slows you down and stiffens you up in entirely the wrong place!

Try filling a sink with some water and take a handful of water. 'Feel' it pass through your fingertips and back into the sink. This is 'feel' for the water. It is incredibly elusive and literally slips through your fingers. You will likely never feel anything. What you will feel is that moment when all the different components of your stroke 'dance' together in time. This is the feeling that you are trying to search for.

Firstly, and most importantly try relaxing. Forget about your catch, focus on keeping a relaxed lead arm and spend more of your time thinking about pushing back (working on that huge 85%). The real difference comes from getting the stroke to drive using a taut torso and hips, pressing back powerfully and keeping your hands in that 85% Propulsive Phase: not stiffly gliding, pausing and stabbing the water in front of your head.

Watch a little bit of Strictly Come Dancing this week and apply the same grace to your arms in swimming, hold your posture perfect with your torso and ensure that your body leads what your arms are doing within your stroke. Don't let your arms control your body. Don't let the tail wag the dog...







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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Bike 'Quick Check'

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Bike 'Quick Check'

An obvious statement to make, but your bike is most probably the highest piece of tech equipment you will have for Triathlon. Goggles, swim cap and wetsuit, yes very technically advanced in this day and age, but with a lot less to go wrong than your bike. Similarly, running shoes and tri kit don't come close to the amount of attention that your bike will demand. The first piece of advice I could give you is that if you are not accustomed to working on, or the workings of a bicycle, then take it to your local bike shop for any work that it may need. Don't chance it. Tarmac is very hard and unforgiving.


11 year old bike. Regular maintenance has meant that it was original until this re-build, and the re-build was more of a want rather than a need.





Your bike works very hard for you so keep it in good shape. Being stranded a long way from home because of the lack of maintenance is all on you, and that loving parent, husband, wife or partner that comes out to collect you is going to need some serious payback. Being stranded a long way from home due to a mechanical, even with good maintenance, will also require payback of some sort, but the difference between the two scenarios is that the second one will still have 'talking to each other' involved.

First tip: keep it clean. Wash your bike regularly. If you have to tinker with it out on the road, the last thing you need is very greasy hands on your nice clean 'yellow' bar tape. (Yes, I have yellow)

Brakes: Somewhat important. This is particular to rim brakes. Check the wear of the brake block. Brake blocks are not an expensive item, but are very important to keep in top condition. Firstly check the rim surface for any concaved or deep grooved wear. Many rim manufactures have wear indicators of one description or another on the braking surface of the rim. Generally they are recessed dots or lines and are sometimes coloured black. In the event you have bad wear, grooving or the wear indicators are no longer visible it would be advisable to get a professional opinion from your local bike store. Once you have checked the rim check the brake block. If the block is convexing and the rim concaving, you have let the wear get too far. If you have grooving on the rim, check brake block and clear any grit that may be lodged in the teeth (grooves in the brake block). If the block is worn down to within a few millimeters of the housing a new set is recommended. Check for alignment and make sure the block is making contact with the braking surface of the rim only. Adjust so there is a slight toe in set-up of the brake blocks. Check that the blocks / housings are the correct way up. You may think this is an odd comment, but ask any mechanic and you will be told that it is not that uncommon. Make sure both brake cables are free moving and not damaged.




I know which I'd go for.
Left: coming to the end of its serviceable usefulness.
Right: trust & confidence.








Incorrectly installed brake block.
Tyre guide (fin like bit) pointing upwards. Correctly fitted block has the rotation of the wheel pushing the insert into the housing. The incorrect fitting has the force pulling the insert out. In the event of any failure of the screw or the insert rubber splits you will end up with no stopping power.(Not likely but you just never know)






Correctly installed brake block.
Tyre guide points downward. I hear you ask 'what is the tyre guide for? As it says on the box. Guides the wheel into place during quick changes, namely during competition.




Tyres: Inspect the wear level and / or damage of your tyres. A worn tyre may still be good for many miles, but are more prone to resulting in a puncture due to the thinness of the tyre rubber. More importantly, worn tyres offer less than ideal grip so replace when needed not when it is too late.









'Would you do 40mph downhill on this?' Well, someone was. (and with 1 set of brake block up-side-down)











Wheels: Inspect axles for play. Grab hold of the top of the wheel and move the wheel side to side. If there is any play in the bearings of the axle you will feel a slight knocking. Adjust if needed. Check for loose spokes by tapping with a plastic or wood dowel. The sound should be even and pinged, any dull sound would indicate a loose spoke. If you have experience of truing wheels, go ahead and sort it yourself. If not, go straight to your local. It could go very wrong if you don't have the skill.

Drive: (Components used to transfer the power generated by your legs to the road via the back wheel). Service the drive mechanism by degreasing the chain, rear cog, chainring and derailleur. Use a good quality lubricant appropriate to the weather conditions you will be riding in. Dry lube is thinner in consistency, picks up less grit in dry weather, but washes off in the wet. Wet lube is thicker and stick, repels water in the wet, but attracts more grit in the dry. Wax lube is more of a dual weather lube, but needs reapplying more often. Ceramic lubes, albeit a bit more costly, are worth a consideration. Check for play in the crank arms and bottom bracket (axle). Adjust if needed or replace bearings. Check the wear of the chain and teeth of all cogs. Cogs are worn when they start to look a bit like a dolphin's dorsal fin, become very pointy and slope backward. You may also find the chain slips when applying force to the pedals. Test all gears, after servicing and before heading out. Don't forget to check your pedals and gear cables at this point.

Cockpit & Seat: Headset checking is easily done. A loose headset could translate into poor handling, and damage to bearings and / or frame. Turn the handlebars to around 90° to the frame. Rock the bars from front to back relative to the frame. Any play in the headset will be felt as a slight knocking. Adjust and re-check. Remember to loosen the stem to steerer bolts before tightening the headset top bolt. Correctly tensioned headset should turn freely without any play. Check that the stem to bar clamp is sufficiently tensioned to prevent the bar dropping on impact of dumps and holes. Test that the seat clamp, at both the frame insert and seat rail, are correctly tightened. Many bike and component manufactures stamp the torque tolerance on the part, so invest in a torque wrench for the job. When using a torque wrench tighten until the pressure is reached and the wrench clicks. DO NOT go for a second click. Check out the video.




BE SAFE & DO TRI.

By Coach Trevor


If you are interested in being coached by Trevor or any other Tri Training Harder coach, please contact us by completing this form or contact us at email us.
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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The 28 Day November Challenge

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With many triathletes starting to turn their attention to their base phases for the season ahead, one of the most important and often neglected aspects of training is strength and conditioning. Strength and conditioning is a broad area to target so we are going to turn our attention to the strength of the core specifically. Core strength is a fundamental building block to being a strong and robust athlete so we have put together an easy to follow core training plan for the 28 days running up to Christmas. The plan is easy to do, simple to follow and will complement any other training you are currently doing. After the 28 days you should find yourself with improved core strength and strengthened calves before Christmas (very useful for any XC running you complete in the off season). So…how does it work…

You will have a 28 day programme to follow which includes four exercises that are completed for a certain number of repetitions or set time each. The number of repetitions or time you complete an exercise will steadily increase throughout the period of 28 days to provide you with a training benefit where you will begin to see results from the work you have put in. At the end of the challenge period you should be able to comfortably carry out the exercises for the amount of repetitions or time that you started the programme off with. However, it is important to ensure that the exercises are carried out with perfect technique and that this is maintained throughout if you want to see the benefits as you need to consistently work the same muscle groups.

Simply read the explanations of each of the exercises below, print off the plan below and follow the routine for each of the 28 days.

Easy!
  
These are the four exercises you will need to complete 6 days per week for the 28 days: 

Single Leg Squat – begin by setting yourself up with a good neutral spine position ensuring that you are standing tall with relaxed shoulders. Hold your arms out straight in front of you at a 90 degree angle to the body then stand on one leg with the other off the ground behind you as if you were about the start hopping. Find yourself in a nice stable position before then squatting down by bending from the knee on the standing leg until you can no longer see your foot when you look down at the floor (it is important that during this process that you keep your knee in alignment with the angle). When you reach this position, hold for a count of 2 and then slowly return to the single leg standing position before repeating. Whilst you are doing this exercise be aware that you need to recruit the glute muscles and core (think about drawing your belly button into your spine) and remember to swap legs half way through the total number of repeats you need to complete. With this exercise, the amount of repeats that you do will increase as you progress through the programme.

Glute Bridge – lie on your back and bend your knees so that you lower legs come close to your bottom whilst maintaining foot contact with the floor. Hold your arms up at a 90 degree angle to the floor, draw your belly button towards you spine to engage the core and then squeeze your glute muscles to lift your body off the ground, balancing on your shoulders and feet. You should be able to produce a straight diagonal line from shoulders to knees when in the correct position. Hold for a count of 5 before then relaxing down to the floor again. Once your body touches the floor you then need to go straight back into the hold position to keep the exercise dynamic throughout. On day 17 you will begin carrying out this exercise as a single leg exercise. All the same principles apply as above but this time you hold one leg out straight (keeping in line with the knee height of the other leg) and complete it on one leg. For those of you who find this exercise easy, you can use a FitBall which you place underneath your feet and carry the exercise out the same as explained above but with your legs straight. With this exercise, the amount of repeats that you do will increase as you progress through the programme.

Plank- lie on your front propped up on your elbows. Keeping the shoulders nice and relaxed, engage the core by thinking about drawing your belly button into your spine and then lift off the floor onto your toes and forearms whilst keeping your spine in line. With this exercise you want to ensure that you keep your body nice and straight, not letting your hips sag down to the floor or your bottom be raised too high towards the ceiling. Hold yourself in this position for the required time set in the programme. You should feel your abdominals, and glutes throughout this exercise. With this exercise, the amount of time you hold the position for will increase as you progress through the programme.

Calf Raises – for this exercise you need to find somewhere that you can elevate yourself off the ground slightly, the lowest step of the stairs or the side of a pavement would work very well. Once you have found an appropriate place to complete this exercise (it usually helps to find a place where you can also balance yourself, for example the banister of the staircase) keep the balls of your feet on the edge of the ledge with your heels hanging off the edge. Keeping the upper body nice and tall with a good neutral spine position, lower yourself down so that you feel a stretch in your calves and then push onto your toes before lowering yourself back down again. With this exercise, the amount of repeats that you do will increase as you progress through the programme.


Remember that technique is key, enjoy and get strong over the winter months!


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