Tag Archives: training

Triathlon training books

Many of us amateur athletes are self-coached, for various reasons. It may be due to lower ambitions, because of financial constraints, lack of good coaches or something similar. I, for instance, enjoy coaching myself because I like experimenting with new training principles and blending them with established facts, observing effects and analyzing results. I firmly believe that training is pretty much art, with some science thrown in-between. There is so much to learn, how your body reacts to certain stimulus, what are its strengths and weaknesses, how your body is trying to tell you certain things. And by being your own coach, there is no one else to blame for your results. Or more importantly, no one takes credit for your successes  😉

With or without coach, some basic universal principles still apply. Following are the books which I use for coaching myself:

 

The Triathlete's Training BibleThe Triathlete’s Training Bible

Well, the title pretty much sums it up. It’s the training bible for triathletes, now in the 3rd edition. Very well written, with a lot of emphasis put on training basics, periodization, progress tracking and racing strategies. It covers all distances, from sprint to Ironman, has sections specific for women, younger and older athletes. So if I would recommend one triathlon book, this would certainly be it!

 

 

 

 

Your Best TriathlonYour Best Triathlon

Building on the success of the Triathlete’s training bible, in Your Best Triathlon the emphasis is put on training plans for sprint, olympic, half-ironman and ironman distance triathlons. For any given distance and training period, the training plans for all three disciplines are provided. Not an essential reading, but recommended for ones, who struggle to organize their training weeks.

 

 

 

 

Triathlon ScienceTriathlon Science

This book’s main purpose would best be described as a go to reference book. It deals with pretty much every topic relevant to triathlon training and provides scientific backgrounds. Each section is written by a respectable science writer on that field, so the books chapters are not closely “bound” together, and can be read as sections easily. Only for the most enthusiastic ones, who wish to understand the scientific foundations of triathlon.

 

 

 

 

Strength Training for TriathletesStrength Training for Triathletes

This nicely illustrated guide shows a plenty strength training exercises for swimming, biking and running. The exercises are organized by sport and muscle group, allowing you to quickly find the best exercise for their unique training needs. What I also found very useful in this book is the periodization principles of strength training that are also very well presented. Recommended for ambitious athletes.

 

 

 

 

Training and Racing with a Power MeterTraining and Racing with a Power Meter

This is a bible for everyone, who owns cycling power meter. The scientific rationale for using power meter is nicely presented along with training protocols and workouts. Also, great emphasis is put on testing your progress and searching your weaknesses. In the new version is also a whole section devoted to triathletes and their training and racing specifics. A worthwhile investment to get the most out of your power meter.

 

 

 

 

The Cyclist's Training BibleThe Cyclist’s Training Bible

Written in the same manner as Triathlete Training Bible, this book covers everything regarding cycling, from training, periodization to racing. A nice read even for us triathletes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runner's BodyRunner’s World The Runner’s Body: How the Latest Exercise Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer, and Faster

The Runner’s Body offers in a friendly, accessible tone, the newest, most surprising, and most helpful scientific discoveries about every aspect of the sport—from how best to nourish the runner’s body to safe and legal ways to increase oxygen delivery to the muscles. Full of surprising facts, practical sidebars, and graphical elements, The Runner’s Body is a nice resource for anyone who wants to become a better—and healthier—runner.

 

 

 

 

Lore of RunningLore of Running, 4th Edition

Often deemed as the Bible for runners, this 900+ page reference book provides incomparable detail on physiology, training, racing, injuries, world-class athletes, and races. The only section that is not relevant is the section on nutrition. The author, Tim Noakes, repeatedly instructed all owners of the book to rip those pages out, as he now endorses a more Low Carb approach to endurance training. Since writing this book in 2002 he reversed his opinion to “get as much carbohydrates as possible” in your diet to “as little as possible”.

 

 

 

 

Which Comes First, Cardio or WeightsWhich Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise

Alex Hutchinson, a physicist, award-winning journalist, and contributing editor of Popular Mechanics magazine, reveals the little-known and often surprising truths that science has uncovered about exercise. A book that ranges from cardio and weights to competition and weight loss, here are fascinating facts and practical tips for fitness buffs, competitive athletes, and popular science fans alike. Nothing essential, but a nice collection of various scientific topics related to exercise.

 

 

 

 

The Athlete's Guide to RecoveryThe Athlete’s Guide to Recovery: Rest, Relax, and Restore for Peak Performance

The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery is a comprehensive, practical exploration of the art and science of athletic rest. Sage Rountree details daily recovery techniques, demystifying common aids like ice baths, compression apparel, and supplements. She explains in detail how to employ restorative practices such as massage, meditation, and yoga. All in all a nice overview, but nothing vital that hasn’t been covered in other books such as Triathlon Training Bible.

 

 

 

 

Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and TriathletesSwim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes: Master the Freestyle Technique Used by the World’s Fastest Swimmers (Swim Speed Series)

4-time Olympian, gold medalist, and triathlon world champion Sheila Taormina reveals the swim technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers. Much of her emphasis is put on the high-elbow underwater pull, with many drills and tips for efficient swim stroke. Not an essential reading.

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Training Low

Carbohydrates are undisputedly ergogenic aids for endurance exercise training. There basically isn’t a single study out there that shows a negative effect of carbs on performance. So when going Low carb in training period, your training performance will suffer, either in volume, intensity or RPE (rating of perceived exertion). I finally managed to perform an analysis of my key training periods before Hawaii Ironman triathlon 2012 (High Carb) and before Hawaii 2013 (Low Carb), that confirmed my initial observations and findings from scientific literature.

I compared the last 14 weeks of training heading into Hawaii Ironman in 2012 or 2013 (three 4-week training blocks + 2-week taper), as this is considered the most important training period before Ironman race. In 2012 I was still on “traditional endurance” High Carb diet, in accordance with all guidelines and with no junk food. For 2013 season I changed to Low Carb nutrition at the start of the year, so the compared period in 2013 was well after adaptation to new nutrition (i.e. 8 months after the switch to Low Carb).

VOLUME COMPARISON

The first (and easiest) comparison is of course the volume of training, represented in km or hours.

B01101 Volume comparison

The numbers speak for themselves, as 11% reduction in total training time was hard to overlook even back when I was training for 2013 Hawaii. I averaged 3 h 03 min per day in 2012 and only 2 h 42 min per day in 2013. Only swim volume was greater in 2013, and that was due to broken ribs and arm lacerations in 2012, that limited my ability to swim. Both run (-18%) and bike (-18%) volumes were markedly lower in 2013, in accordance with previous observations, that I just couldn’t train that much. It wasn’t for the lack of time or motivation; it was just the volume that was killing me in 2013.

As far as the sleep goes, I averaged 9,0 hours of sleep per day in 2012 and 8,6 hours in 2013, so no major differences.

WORKOUT TYPE COMPARISON

The volume is only one determinant of training, with quality being probably more important. So the comparison of workout types may provide a better glimpse into changes between my 2012 and 2013 Hawaii preparation period.

B01102 workout type comparison

In running, I did a couple more interval training sessions and a couple of tempo and long distance workouts less in 2013 when compared with 2012. The major difference comes in other run workouts (i.e. recovery runs, “garbage miles”…), that I performed almost one third less in 2013! And the picture is almost identical for bike workouts in 2013, with the numbers of workout types quite similar except of “garbage miles” workouts (approx. one fourth less in 2013). So all in all, the quality of training was more or less comparable between 2012 and 2013, also confirming my initial feelings.

RPE, FATIGUE, WILLINGNESS TO TRAIN

As mentioned before, I also track Rating of perceived exertion, Fatigue and Willingness to train for every session. I assign a 0-9 value to each based on the following index:

Rating of perceived exertion Fatigue Willingness to train
1 – Very light
2
3 – Fairly light
4 – Moderate
5 – Somewhat hard
6 – Hard
7 – Very hard
8
9 – Maximum
1 – Feeling new
2
3 – Rested
4
5 – Average
6
7 – Tired
8
9 –Destroyed
1 – Very High
2
3 – High
4
5 – Average
6
7 – Low
8
9 – Zero

So another possible comparison between years could be based on RPE, Fatigue and Willingness to train criteria. RPE is excellent measure of how hard I went in each session (i.e. intensity) while Fatigue and Willingness to train are good indicators for overtraining status. By comparing these indicators for key workouts, I can get another view of the training quality.

I averaged these indicators for key workouts (i.e. interval, tempo or distance workouts) and for “garbage miles” workouts (i.e. all other).

B01103 RPE, FATIGUE, WILLINGNESS TO TRAIN

When looking through results, no difference appears in “garbage miles” workouts, whether they were run or bike workouts. This would indicate that intensity was the same as well as Fatigue level and Willingness to train. But when looking at averages from key workouts (i.e. intervals, tempos and distance sessions), the most notable difference is RPE, being quite higher in 2013 for both run and bike workouts. While on first thought this would indicate higher intensity and quality of key workouts in 2013, I would most probably ascribe that to typical characteristic of Low Carb training. Namely, for a given workout performed at lower muscle glycogen content (which is the case in Low Carb training) the RPE is higher at the same intensity or power. This fact is well established and proven in scientific literature, as subject always report higher RPE on Low Carb for the same workout intensity in comparison to High Carb.

Also, the track run workouts indicate the above mentioned fact of higher RPE at same pace as well. In 2012 I was performing 10x400m run repeats at 74 sec with average HR 150 bpm and 60 sec rest periods in between, while in 2013 I could only do 77 sec 10x400m repeats with average HR 150 bpm. But on 90 sec rests, so the overall intensity was substantially lower in 2013, albeit at higher RPE!

MY 2013 NUTRITION

Unfortunately, I do not have any nutrition data for the last 14 weeks before 2012 Hawaii when I was training High Carb Low Fat, but I would guesstimate that I was consuming well over 500 g of carbs per day. Probably more in 600 – 700 g region, as only my usual (cereal) breakfasts consisted of more than 200 g of carbs!

I started tracking my nutrition intake in 2013, so I have complete nutrition data for whole year. In last 14 weeks of training for Hawaii in 2013, my average daily carb intake was 199 g on 5.011 kCal consumption.

B01104 average nutrient intake

Average fat intake was 360 g, while protein at 231 g, which means that I got almost 2/3 of my energy from fat! As far as food groups goes, they averaged out as follows.

B01105 average food groups

CONCLUSION

Quite evidently, the most important training period (14 weeks before an Ironman) was lower in volume and at best similar with regards to quality in 2013 when compared to 2012. But as stated before, training performance is of minor importance with regards to race performance, as I train for races and not for training “bragging rights” 😉 The end result of different training approaches taken in 2012 and 2013 can be nicely summarized by the following graphic:

Comparison of 2012 and 2013 Ironman Hawaii race performances (2013 was Train low Race high Carb approach)

Comparison of 2012 and 2013 Ironman Hawaii race performances (2013 was Train low Race high Carb approach)

So where did this 38 minute (7%!) improvement come from? Some of it was evidently from better weather conditions, some were undoubtedly because of additional endurance training year, additional experiences… And I believe the major factor was also a change in nutrition. As far as I experienced until now, the Train Low Race High approach with regards to carbs has two major advantages:

  • Smaller reliance on carbs for fuel and correspondingly greater fat burning capacity, which means lower chances of bonking.
  • Greater training adaptation at lower (or the same) training stimulus (i.e. intensity and volume).

Especially the second advantage is most often overlooked and seldom mentioned. This may also be the consequence of quite limited research on this topic, as you can basically count studies that deal with this question on the fingers of one hand! But sadly, this advantage is in my opinion also one of major reasons, why people don’t stick with Low Carb training approach. They only see the reduction in performance in training, get scared and conclude that they are not suited to Low Carb.

In my opinion, based on my experiences gather so far and with regards to studied scientific literature, I could compare Train Low Race High Carb approach to altitude training. You are training at tougher conditions (higher altitude or lower muscle glycogen content) so that the races seem easier (sea level altitude or full muscle glycogen)!

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How I track my training

On 5th February 2000 I ran 3,7 km in the time of 15:45. This was my first entry into training log, which was in paper back then. 3.757 workouts later (until 2014) I get very nostalgic when holding those couple of papers that were my training log at that time. Now in the electronic age, I cannot hold my training log anymore as it is stored in a cloud. Being data geek, this is how I track my workouts.

My training log is of course in a form of Excel spreadsheet. The data entry sheet for specific year is arranged in rows, so that each row represents a date in a year. For each day I record the following things:

  • run training,
  • swim training,
  • bike training,
  • strength training,
  • In which part of the day workouts were performed (i.e. morning, AM, PM, evening),
  • weight,
  • and hours of sleep.

B00701 Daily data entry

For running sessions I firstly assign a label for the workout type, so that I can easily determine the intervals sessions, tempo sessions and long runs. Before the session numbers comes a brief description of the workout, while the numbers present duration, length, vertical gain, average and max HR and calories burned (as calculated by Polar watch).

B0070101 Run

Then I have 3 categories that present my Rating of perceived exertion, Fatigue and Willingness to train for that session. I assign a 0-9 value to each based on the following index:

Rating of perceived exertion Fatigue Willingness to train
1 – Very light
2
3 – Fairly light
4 – Moderate
5 – Somewhat hard
6 – Hard
7 – Very hard
8
9 – Maximum
1 – Feeling new
2
3 – Rested
4
5 – Average
6
7 – Tired
8
9 –Destroyed
1 – Very High
2
3 – High
4
5 – Average
6
7 – Low
8
9 – Zero

This allows me to assess my training / overtraining status. Furthermore, I also track in which running shoes I ran. The workout tempo and TSS (my Training Stress Score, more on that in a later post) are calculated automatically, and the yearly summary sits on the top of workout list.

I track swim training very unclearly, as I still haven’t found a suitable way to easily browse through main sets in a sea of drills. So I describe each workout in a list manner, then I note training duration and the total swim distance. I also note RPE, Fatigue and Willingness to train for that session and weather the swim was done in wetsuit.

B0070102 Swim

As with running, I first assign a label for workout type when logging cycling session. Then duration, distance, vertical climb, cadence, average power, HR and calories come, along with RPE, Fatigue and Willingness to train. At the end comes the notion of which bike, wheel set, tire and cycling shoes were used.

B0070103 Bike

I also track the type and reps / sets of strength exercises and their total duration.

B0070104 Strenght

On this sheet I also have some basic statistics of workouts I performed in the last week, month or in last specified days (i.e. number of workout, duration of workouts…). Beside this summary table is one very annoying cell, that shows me how many hours I am behind (or above) the planned weekly hours, which I have set at 21. If the cell is white, than I am on plan (at least based on duration), and if it is red, then I have some training to do.

B0070105 summary

This sheet in a workbook represents the data entry point, while I have some computed statistics on other sheets. They are weekly, monthly and yearly view sheets, which show weekly, monthly and yearly summaries.

B00702 Weekly view

B00703 Monthly view

B00704 Yearly view

I also have two other sheets, which show my cumulative yearly data for run / bike / swim volumes and run / bike / swim volumes in chosen time periods (i.e. in 30 days).

B00706 Cummulative view

B00705 Period view

Other various sheets include a list of all my races (122 up to this day), list and description of all my injuries, list of all my triathlon expenses, list of all my run track sessions and bike hill workouts and a list for yearly planning of training and races.

B00707 Races summary

B00708 Equipment summary

I find Excel really excellent program for my tracking purposes as it enables me any statistical analysis I choose. Over the last 10 year that I am using Excel, I updated this file gradually, adding various statistics and features along with some fancy formatting touches. This is the main reason for not using online programs like Garmin Connect or Strava as they limit me either in their statistics or at their presentation of the data.

I made a simplified version of my Excel spreadsheet for tracking triathlon training. Feel free to download and use it, if you find it useful!

Download “Training log” Training-log.xlsx – Downloaded 705 times – 257 KB

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Year in review – Training & Racing

I recently got reminded that the year 2013 ended and that it would be appropriate to publish also training data summary for the year, not just nutrition data. I basically do not view 1st of January as the start of season marker, as my 2014 season already started back in December 2013. But minor details aside, here are the summary data for 2013 season in comparison with all previous seasons.

My yearly totals

My yearly totals

The season 2013 could be summarized in one number as: -10%. That was my reduction in total training time. The reduction in training volume was highest at running (-18%) and was a consequence of my early season injury (raptured Achilles tendon in January). I was unable to run for 3 weeks, but recovered quite well after that, thanks also to excellent treatment of Tina Maze’s personal physiotherapist Nežka Poljanšek. Even though I increased my bike training at that period, my total bike training time fell by 8% in comparison to 2012. Swimming was more consistent this year, only 2% reduction in training time. I also did less strength work, -12% with regards to 2012. All in all, that corresponded to approx. 106 hours less training in 2013.

As far as the quality of training goes, I would rate it the same as in 2012, at best. My training performance was quite lower this year due to “Train low Race high” carbohydrate approach, as I’ve written previously. Not that I care, as the race results this year were markedly better, with AG win at Ironman Lanzarote (9th overall) and 2nd place AG (29th overall) in Ironman World Championship Hawaii. Even though the slower training times are a bit hard to swallow, the race times are what really count for me. This year in Hawaii I managed half hour faster bike split and went 5 minutes faster on the run for a sub 3h marathon!

Comparison of 2012 and 2013 Ironman Hawaii race performances (2013 was Train low Race high Carb approach)

Comparison of 2012 and 2013 Ironman Hawaii race performances (2013 was Train low Race high Carb approach)

Injury wise, 2013 was much kinder to me. Beside above mentioned Achilles injury, I only experienced 3 episodes of diarrheas and one instance of eye inflammation. When looking through the 2012 list, which consists of broken ribs, arm lacerations, sciatica pain, shin splints on both legs, multiple occasions of ear infections, couple of diarrheas, lower leg muscle strains…, I would say that 2013 was relatively injury free 🙂

So what so conclude of 2013? It was my best triathlon season so far, as everything from training, nutrition and race performance fell almost perfectly together. My new Low Carb nutrition approach was the major breakthrough for me in 2013, as I managed to implement it successfully in training and recovery. Consequently, my general well-being was better than in previous years, which resulted in optimal foundations for great race performance. The 2nd place in AG at Hawaiian Ironman was therefore confirmation of the correct approach and hard work.

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