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Ageing and Recovery

Ageing and Recovery

At the 70.3 World Championships. Athletes are competing competitively for longer.

As more and more people stay longer in the sport of Triathlon or decide to try the sport for the first time at an advanced age, then recovery can become an important consideration. In some ways age may or may not be the amount of birthdays you have had, but the amount of training years you have behind you. The more training years you have, can have a positive effect on the age of the athlete.

Less than 40 years ago it was commonly thought that being over 30 was ‘too old’ and athletes should retire. Not only in contact sports but also endurance events. Swimmers rarely reached the age of 20 and continued competitively in the sport. Runners would sometimes hang around a bit longer, but then a Portuguese runner named Carlos Lopes broke the Olympic record to take the Gold Medal in 1984 at 37 years of age. A record that stood 30 years later!

In the sport of triathlon we don’t have to look far for excellent age group performances. Dave Scott finishing 2nd behind Greg Welch at Hawaii when over 40 years-old being one stand out.

Dave-Scott-40

Craig Alexander, 3 times Hawaii Ironman winner and record holder in his late 30s now at age 43 has just won at least four competitive 70.3’s in the last 6 months. The list can go on, but the point is I don’t consider 40 as being ‘old or ‘non competitive’. The two guys I mention had been around triathlon for over 20 years and other related sports for another 10.

While the amount of time that Craig Alexander puts into his training now is probably 50% of what he did in his Ironman glory days, he is still a super competitive athlete. He can do this because he has put the miles in previously; his arms and legs have a memory bank of thousands of kilometres. While he still carries out slower rides and runs, he does not do as much. When completing higher intensity efforts he tries to ensure he stays injury free. I remember reading an article back in the 90s where Dave Scott mentioned much of the same.

So I find it highly amusing that some triathlon magazines or coaches will give an example of a triathlon legend’s training program to a “newbie” athlete and intimate that if you follow this workout you will somehow be as good as the legend. Unfortunately it does not work this way.

Training, intensity and recovery is not dependent on age, but time in sport and more specifically time in triathlon. If a coach is not aware of that factor then how can they plan a suitable program? Here at Trisutto.com we as coaches set daily programs so that “triathletes can train today so that they can train tomorrow”. It is self defeating if the program on one day is so brutal that the triathlete can’t face up to training the next day. Sure we have recovery days of lighter activity or just a session of swim, but frequent consistency and effort are two important principles of our training.

Carlos_Lopes21984 Olympic marathon Champion, Carlos Lopes.

So, how much intensity and how much recovery is enough? Well that depends on the individual in question. Age is just one factor in many that has to be considered. What I can tell you is that from my own personal experience at 65 years-old, I find that the higher the intensity of the training sessions or the race, the longer it takes me to recover. If I race (Standard Distance) on the Sunday and when I front up for interval training on a Tuesday evening, my legs are still tired and lacking of what speed they may have had. I still do the session but I do it slower! If I race a 70.3, the following 10 days I am still recovering, but I keep training albeit lower intensity, less running and more swimming.

The swim session is used extensively at Trisutto.com for a number of reasons, but one being recovery. You can still get a medium to high intensity cardiovascular workout when you are tired without any more stress on your already tired legs (use a pull buoy) and the legs usually feel improved and less fatigued after.

Two other things I have found with ageing are the longer time it takes to get over an injury and how little use stretching is. Two topics I will leave for another time as I know people’s opinion can vary.

Rob Pickard is a former National Coaching Director and High Performance Manager of Triathlon Australia. He is an Age Group Triathlon World Champion. 

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Olympic and Kona Update

Olympic and Kona Update

Nicola Spirig in the water today.

Thank you to all our supporters sending messages of hope for Nicola in this very difficult time. Also for all the inquiries about Daniela and the 2016 schedule.

I thought best to give our followers a clear update rather than have people guessing on the basis of social media.

Nicola had surgery on her shattered hand. In the end she needed three plates and 20 screws to rebuild the damage. However, what will delay any decisions on the short term future will be the stress fracture and ligament damage to the opposite shoulder.

This will obstruct many innovative approaches to training. We are lucky to have access to an AlterG treadmill and and some low impact running has been taking place. We want to take the first three weeks steady to promote healing. We will keep all her fans updated as we move forward as fast as the healing process allows, but today showed promising signs.

Daniela_Ryf_ReturnNo injury concerns for the Angry Bird.

Daniela is fine and has no injury worries, but she was given an extended break. Last season was a fantastic year, but also a tremendously physically and mentally stressful time for her. As people will come to appreciate even more with time – taking out Kona and the Triple Crown in one year is no small feat.

As Daniela had not just completed a fairytale season, but two fairytale seasons back-to-back with training non-stop for the last three years, it was decided that now would be a great time for her to take time off and let the body fully recover. Ironman is often not given the respect it deserves on how tough it is on the body.

Trying to juggle university studies, time constraints with media and learning how to deal with all the press commitments in a positive way – a rest and reboot for a more relaxed 2016 will be great for her long term sporting career.

So why the training updates on Twitter? Dannie found taking a full-on break nearly as stressful as full time training, so we are bringing her back on for an April 1 start to training. She will then head to our St. Moritz camp to start Kona preparations and we will ascertain her form and whether to make the trip to Australia for the 70.3 World Championships.

This year will be about repositioning the Bird for the next three seasons.

So our Swiss stars begin the climb in 2016 all our age group athletes face at some point – building back residual fitness. Best wishes to everyone as they look to climb their own Everest.

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Moving With Your Best Two Feet

Moving With Your Best Two Feet

Coach Mat O’Halloran on deck at Gran Canaria this week.

When most athletes think of injuries, they think of shoulders, back, hamstring, etc. However, in the world of triathlon, one of the most important, overused and under-cared parts of our body are our two feet. Even when we are not training, they are at work in our daily lives. The reality is that they can be rudimentary to various pains in the rest of our bodies. They can be the root of a small but significant discomfort and antagonise other injuries due to overcompensation.

Organised foot care goes back thousands of years. There is proof that even Pharaohs in Egypt and noble men in southern Babylonia took care of their feet using golden tools. Beyond the modern aesthetic and part of good grooming (feet, toes and nails) – once upon a time, a small issue with your feet, could quickly escalate into a full blown life threatening problem. Most especially if it compromises one’s ability to hunt or escape danger.

Feet_PharaohsEgyptian & Babylonian nobles knew the value in looking after their feet!

Once foot pain arises, it may compel athletes to put more pressure on the other foot or to land on another part of their foot, of which can quickly cause soreness or strain on another area of your lower leg. As the reality is that we take 10’s of thousands of steps each day. Then, since triathletes are exposed to various environments at the pool, racing/training sockless or being in extreme outdoor situation, the risk of infection with an open wounds is greatly increased. This is especially true when using multiple types of foot wear that might accumulate various bacteria over time.

The solution not probably associated with High Performance triathlon programs?

Investing in a monthly pedicure can help prevent ingrown nails, blisters and toe numbness. By removing dead skin, calluses, warts and corn, it increases circulation and makes the skin smoother. This will help to lessen friction with any outside surface and prevents ‘pockets’ to form. Particular since it’s an area with little muscle and fat, the thin skin and prominent tendons, make topical problems more likely. The major idea, if to PREVENT these problems.

Beyond the basics benefits of a pedicure, many end with a short foot massage, of which can give great overall health benefits and relaxation to the whole body or mind. There’s plenty of literature on foot reflexology that shows the existence of a connection with various internal organs.

Foot Chart

Here are additional various tips to maintain healthy feet:

  • Clean your shoes regularly
  • Always wear clean socks and buy those of superior fabric
  • Get a pedicure once per month, but not before a big workout or race
  • Wear properly cushioned foot wear to walk around after big workouts
  • Self massage your feet before bed
  • Soak your feet in warm salt water when you feel blisters coming or before cutting your nails
  • Pop and drain blisters sooner than later, sterilize and let them breathe at home but cover when outside
  • Don’t walk barefoot in foreign or potentially dirty areas

Another critical aspect, is to avoid wearing flip flops too often or for extended periods. Especially after a workout, when you have any foot/lower leg issues or open wounds. It’s proven that your gait or walking style is altered when we wear flip flops. Our toes are forced to curl and grip the sole as we lift our feet, this can put extra strain to our arch, Achilles or calf. All the while providing little to no arch support. All this can trigger tendinitis or increase inflammation in various areas of our lower leg.

In fact, a 2009 report on the Today Show, according to the University of Miami, they once found a single pair of flip flops with 18 000+ different types of bacteria.

I’m not saying avoid flip flops, simply limit your use of them, especially before/after workouts, before races or when you know you will be on your feet for extended periods of time. If you do live in a very tropical, hot or humid country like I do – definitely invest in top end brands like Fit-Flop, Reef or if it’s your thing, Crocs. And of course, keep them clean by washing them regularly!

In the end, keeping our feet healthy is a fundament part of our health, wellbeing and history. While modern civilization permits our feet to be under used and become a bit weak, for triathletes it can be the source of many problems that go beyond ugly feet. So invest a little, take the extra time and get your feet taken care off, to see for yourself, the overall benefits of superior foot care!

View Coach Mat O’Halloran’s full profile here.

Trisutto.com triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Active Recovery

Active Recovery

Coach Susie Langley with Jane Hansom at Hawaii earlier this year.

I thought I would put the two subjects of Rest and Christmas together, as both need to be integrated to have a happy holiday period for you and those around you.

There is no reason to feel guilty while eating Christmas dinner or relaxing over a few beers with some pudding for dessert.

The question of ‘rest’, when one should be doing it and how to best implement it in a busy life-work balance arises in question time at all my seminars. Always.

The anxiety of ‘should I rest? And what about the missed sessions is my program?’ is a paralysing self debate, which usually ends in if, ‘well, if I just push on and do everything, then I have everything covered.’

The reality is rest does not work this way.

So let’s analyse what at Trisutto.com we call a rest day, while also accounting for the fact that each athlete is different.

Some athletes like to do nothing on a rest day. Absolutely nothing. Just ask Chrissie (Wellington) about her first experience in camp where her room-mates did nothing but watch the TV series ’24’ ad nauseum during their rest period.

This is fine for me.

Others, like Chrissie, find that situation totally unacceptable. So we do what is called an active rest day. This is where we do very short sessions of no more than 30 minute tops.

Some professionals still like to to do the three sessions as per their normal training day, and so our rest day may look like this:

20 minute jog in the morning. 30 minute easy pedal in the afternoon with a light splash in the pool of between 1-1.5km. Never more than 2km.

We have others who want to do a little jog or a splash swim and nothing else. This is also acceptable.

These times and distances are very easy even for age group athletes, so one can imagine how for the pros it is truly a rest day with some muscle movement.

What we do not do on rest day – massage. Massage doesn’t constitute a rest. We do that before our rest day.

Daniela_Crew_BahrainPost Bahrain rest for the Angry Bird and crew.

Resting over Christmas

For those of you worried about incorporating ‘rest’ into your schedules over Christmas, here is a little present for our athletes on training plans:

You’ll find the training broken up into blocks. 5-7 days training followed by a rest or active rest day, followed by another 5-7 training before another rest day as per our program.

Here is the kicker. After the third period of training, no matter how we feel we take a minimum two-day break. Always. One day doing completely nothing and the other can be active rest if you choose to.

This is mandatory. Two rest days. No discussion. I don’t care if you are ‘feeling good’.

This is where we get our insurance policy from over-training.

We then have a ‘get back to training day’ where we build back into training gently. No heart rate stuff, at most some simple accelerations on all three. Then we’re back into our workload full tilt until we believe we need our next rest day.

What day is that?

I have no idea and neither should the athlete. The weekly calender just as the training program should not dictate to us that.

The training philosophy is this:

If our bodies tell us it wants or needs a rest – then we take it. If one day is not enough, we always take two. But here is the kicker, the 3rd day is always building, not smashing. It’s preparing our bodies to get back to some real work.

At Trisutto.com a 72 hours of break / easy work every training cycle is as close to dogma that you will find. The freshening up it gives you will make such a difference to the quality of your everyday training.

So what has it to do with Christmas?

Well,‎ it allows you to give yourself time off over the festive days. Now, with one week before Christmas you can work yourself really hard with two blocks of three days of solid training with one rest day in the middle.

Then Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day can be recovery before getting straight back to your training the very next day.

You’re happy that you missed nothing and much more importantly your family are appreciative that you took genuine time off to spend with them on the special occasion.

Merry Christmas to all and thank you for your support over a brilliant 2016 season.

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Inquiries about Trisutto coaching development can be made to: robbie@trisutto.com

Tapering for Kona

Tapering for Kona

The team are now into their last week of our Jeju heat camp.

As we get down to what is normally considered taper time for Kona, lots have been asking for my take on an article published yesterday by former World Ironman champ, Pete Jacobs.

At Trisutto.com we don’t believe in calling it a taper, rather ‘race preparation’ so we don’t get lost in the thinking that we need to taper the workload down to near nothing.

In his piece on the subject Pete nails the most common mistake in the last week of the traditional taper: Too many athletes are running too much into the race and are doing it too fast.

His advice about backing off on the run in the weeks leading up to race day is in my opinion spot on. I am of similar mind that once you have locked up your last long run on the need to wind it down.

This is because we keep our aerobic function topped up on the bike and with the swim. The bike allows us to monitor our power effort and the lack of stress impact makes cycling the most efficient method to use as a training tool to adjust intensities during this most important week.

We at Trisuttto.com also cut back the number of swim workouts in a normal taper. Swimming is power intensive and if you are a poor swimmer – a swim set that is too strong for you close to a race can have a negative affect on not just your swim, but also your bike and run.

Where would I disagree with Pete is that we do not advise swimming in the race course within 3 days before the race.

Kona Water1

This is not just for Kona, nor am I criticising the water there. I advise this to all for every race.

Over a long career I’ve seen too many athletes do a great preparation only to turn up race morning with a ‘mysterious illness’. It’s often put down to food poisoning, when in fact they have picked up a little bug in the open water. 48 hours later they can be totally fine, but the race is over.

For those nodding their heads thinking ‘well yes, maybe in Rio, but not possible in Kona’. I can assure it’s often the ‘cleanest’ waters that will bring you undone. To spend a huge amount of money to prepare and travel to a race only to see it brought undone by swimming in the beautiful lake is just not a risk I want our charges to take.

Plenty of time for looking at the marine life after the race when one is actively recovering. You’re not going to be feeling that fresh anyway.

Apart from that, think Pete’s advice is sound to go with.

Post Race Recovery Strategies

Post Race Recovery Strategies

Recently I reposted an article, De-Iced: the End of the Cold War, which outlined how the world’s leaders in health, performance and rehab are now abandoning ice as a recovery tool based on a complete lack of evidence that it speeds up or helps in the recovery process. Along with generating some healthy debate, I’ve had a couple of emails along the theme of:

Well, if you don’t advocate stretching for triathlon, and you don’t believe in ice or R.I.C.E then what do you do with your athletes post race?”

Which I think is a fair enough question. In response here are my thoughts on Post Race Recovery:

The first point I’d make is that a recovery plan depends largely on whether you’ve competed in an early morning or an afternoon race. The reason this is important is because I prefer my athletes to exercise and actively loosen up again after they’ve finished competing.

If they’ve had an early race start my advice is to go on a 60-90 minute bike ride some time in the afternoon. Obviously no big effort, just to spin the legs over.

An afternoon race can complicate this as they may not have the time to complete the ride in daylight hours. In that case we try and make sure that the hotel we’re staying at has a treadmill or sauna. Post race recovery is then an easy 30 minute run followed by a 30 minute sauna – with light stretching if they must.

But this is where it can get tricky:

If the race we’ve just completed falls in the middle of training for another race, then we look to do a run straight after finishing with the distance of the run varying according to the distance of the next race. So if the next race was Olympic distance post-race we’d run 5km, or 10km if we’re going half Ironman. If our next race is an Ironman we’d do 15km and then in the afternoon we’d ride.

It’s the time just after finishing a race that is so essential to helping recovery. That’s why I advise my guys to stay in the town an extra day if they can to train and then return back to camp on the Tuesday.

Now of course if you are an age-group athlete who works full-time then this is very difficult.

However I would still strongly suggest doing some form of exercise on race day itself, and then making every effort to fit in some light training the day after. Not doing anything straight after the race and then taking Monday off slows recovery enormously. It also creates the opportunity for injury as once you get back into training the muscles have completely stiffened and tightened up.

So in short, rather than ice or R.I.C.E I recommend keeping the blood flowing as soon as possible in the hours and days after the race, then later in the week take a day or two off.

Below is a rough Sutto guide to what we do and it seems to work pretty effectively.

Sunday:

Ride again in the afternoon 60-90 minutes.

Monday:
AM: Short, easy run 30 minutes
Midday: Swim 1hr easy
PM: Ride 1hr easy (pack bike)

Tuesday:
AM: Short run 20 minutes
Midday: Travel home
PM: Normal swim set if you can.

Wednesday:

Complete rest.

Trisutto.com coaches are available to help improve your performance here.