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Intensity Measuring Tools – Pros and Cons

Intensity Measuring Tools – Pros and Cons

A few of our gadgets.

Intensity is the measure of how hard we are going. As endurance athletes we need to care about intensity because we don’t want to go out too hard and explode, or too easy and leave time on the table.

There are multiple ways to measure intensity; heart rate monitors, GPS units, pool clocks etc., but the most important one that all athletes should strive to master is ‘perceived exertion.’ I highly recommend it because we have it with us all the time and it doesn’t need batteries or recharging. I also really like the fact that it makes us pay attention to what’s really going on in our body – it engages you and this engagement is what helps us raise our level big time. Why is that? Because focusing on perceived exertion makes you pay attention to your breathing, to your muscles and to your fatigue level. Yes, it can very subjective (particularly when just learning) and that’s why I have no problem with beginners using the technology during their first couple of seasons.

My veterans on the other hand always get “the look” by Coach when they are fussing about with their power meter zones or heart rates during workouts and races. I like to remind them that when you are gadget oriented you are susceptible to letting the numbers tell you how you are feeling. If you’re an experienced athlete and are still relying on a piece of equipment to tell you if you are executing properly then there has been a breakdown in the process already.

It’s a hard sell, but I often tell my age-group athletes not to waste 30 valuable minutes every day downloading and analysing every day activities on their Strava or Training Peaks accounts. Truth is it’s completely unnecessary, and 99% of the sub 8:30 Ironman triathletes I know don’t bother with things like that themselves. Why? They say they are too tired to be fussing around with it and instead would rather sleep the extra 30 minutes a day. To me that sounds like an excellent choice!

Race smart, but be brave in trusting yourself and your training.

Coach Luis Villavicencio had 7 World Championship qualifiers in 2015. online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Luis_SquadSome of our Thursday morning swim animals this week! 

The Importance of Proper Pacing

The Importance of Proper Pacing

Race day pacing: Athletes at the Home of Triathlon race earlier this month.

I really try to stress to my athletes the importance of getting your pacing right. Get it wrong and your race will fall to pieces no matter how fit you are.

Racing for an entire day requires one to be smart enough to know your limitations. You also have to be humble and disciplined enough not to let yourself get caught up in someone else’s race. Do this and you are going to pay later, in fact it’s one of the main reasons we see so many folks doing the Zombie walk at the 70.3 and 140.6 events.

If you look hard you can even find them at your local sprint triathlon. I know for sure back in 1991 when I did my first sprint triathlon I walked the last kilometre of the run.

When we race long we have to put a lot of thought on controlling emotions, fuelling, dealing with discomfort and remaining focused. That’s why I tell my athletes that they are there to do their own thing. If they are near the prize-money or the World Championship slot after the 32km mark, then, and only then should they start to race the competition. Because age groupers, including top age groupers, shouldn’t be putting it all on the line so early in the race. We save our best efforts for the end. Anybody can do well until they get to halfway through the run and then reality hits them and the excuses begin… ‘I got cramps, I was dehydrated, I dropped a bottle with some of my race day nutrition.’

I honestly don’t think I’ve heard anybody say they went out too fast too early and because of this rookie mistake they bonked.

Trent athlete Trent Simmons completing a Brick workout.

So what I do to prevent this happening to my athletes is prescribe them Brick workouts that will have them relatively tired when they get off the bike. Sometimes that bike ride comes in the form of a 3 hour 30 minutes workout (moderate, medium, mad), it’s a brilliant workout that the Doc (Brett Sutton) teaches. That way we work on bike pacing and running on tired legs. With this workout they also learn about their own limitations because usually they blow up the first time they do it.

The reason is because they get off the bike and start running at their normal running half marathon pace, they feel good for 30 mins and then Bam! They bonk and the walking begins. So after an hour of crying on the phone with me I explain to them that they should add 15% to the open half marathon pace – for example a 1:40 half marathoner, add 15% and that’s 1:55 min, that is their 70.3 run guesstimate. So next time they get off the bike in the middle of a Brick that’s how they start. To their surprise fit athletes always end up feeling better and running faster after executing correctly the first 50% of the run.

I have heard many coaches use a phrase which I have also adopted: “go fast when the race is slow”. To me that pretty much summarises what we want to do, but also we have to keep in mind that it’s what we do in the first “slow” hours that will determine what happens in the later stages of the race. So my advice will be stay focused all the time, create and trust your strategy and trust your training.

Coach Luis Villavicencio has coached 7 World Championship qualifiers this year. Sign up for online coaching with Luis here.

Coach Luis TeamCoach Luis and some of his Squad.

Goal Setting for Triathlon

Goal Setting for Triathlon

I often see athletes signing up for races or talking about breaking personal bests, but their actions don’t match the level of commitment achieving their goals require.

Now that the race season is in full swing it’s a good time to sit down and re-evaluate our goals and our daily routines:

Are we doing what it takes to succeed?

What do you need to do or set in place to give yourself the most chance of success?

When evaluating you need to make sure you are being true to yourself and decide if you really are willing to make the sacrifices required to meet those goals – because every time you fail at achieving a goal your self-esteem suffers a mini defeat. Those mini defeats build up over weeks, months and years and end up taking a terrible toll on your self worth.

Many times I see athletes signing up for races or talking about how they want to smash their personal bests, but then their actions do not match the level of commitment achieving their goals require.

If the athlete isn’t willing to do the work or make the sacrifices that it takes to reach his or her goals then as a coach I remind them about our goal setting conversations we had at the beginning of the coach-athlete relationship. Sometimes that works, like giving them a little kick in the butt that jumpstarts and refocuses their motivation. As we know motivation is everything

What I also suggest in some cases is for the athlete to re-evaluate his or her goals – maybe skip that Ironman 140.6 due to the fact that time is very limited, but instead perform really well at an Olympic distance event where later on we can lay endurance over that speed and have race a great Ironman distance race. This alternative is a lot better than showing up to an Ironman completely underprepared and having a disappointing race. As a coach I like reminding my athletes that being consistent the whole year round and racing well at the Olympic distance is better for them than not being consistent in training and racing a full Ironman.

I know it won’t impress your friends at the party as much, but your health and your fitness will thank you for it, also the peace of mind you’ll achieve from following a balanced and realistic program will pay its dividends in all aspects of life.

So to avoid issues you need to think and ask yourself honestly – am I willing to commit? Once you decide attack your goals like there is not tomorrow. But remember, whether you achieve your goals or not make sure you are enjoying the process!

Coach Luis Villavicencio has coached 7 World Championship qualifiers this year. Sign up for online coaching with Luis here.

Coach Luis Squad1On the way to the top!

England’s Lottie Riddle

England’s Lottie Riddle

When we first started working with Lottie she was already a fit girl, but I believe she came on board because she was a little curios about being coached by a Brett Sutton mentored online coach.

In our first Ironman 70.3 working together she qualified for the European Union Triathlon Championships on May 24.

Preparing her for that event has been a very pleasant experience because she has improved a lot. Especially on her swim. Taking on the Total Body Force swim system the Doc has taught us is an invaluable tool for us coaches in helping our athletes.

In her most recent race at the 70.3 European Championships Challenge Rimini she placed an excellent 5th in her age group.

 Lottie Riddle1Representing Great Britain at Challenge Rimini.
Using Cycling to Cross Train for Running

Using Cycling to Cross Train for Running

Why I use cycling as a way of Cross Training for the runners I coach:

Cycling is an excellent way to cross-train for competitive and casual long distance runners. Training with a bike can build endurance, muscle strength and leg movement, which all improves running times. It can provide a break from regular running workouts and lessen the chance of injury from running.

The fact that cycling works the front leg muscles which are not stressed in running helps balance leg muscles and reduces the chance of injury. It also helps stretch out leg muscles and gives the feet and ankles a break from the pounding of running. It is also excellent rehabilitation from injury or recovery from an intense or long run.

Bicycle training improves cardiovascular fitness because a cyclist is able to work for longer. Three or four miles of cycling is the equivalent of about a mile of running, so a cyclist keeps the heart rate and lung function at high levels longer. Longer workouts build endurance and can also help with weight control because longer periods of exercise burn more stored fat. I believe that’s the reason why some elite triathletes are able to run so well with only 3 run workouts a week. Whereas a 5-hour ride is normal for a serious cyclist, in contrast a 3.5 hour run is a very, very long run that needs a lot of recovery afterwards in comparison. Cycling wears you out less, which means you can go for hours and hours without causing too much muscle damage.

Complementing your run workout program with two one hour sessions a week will help you raise your performance. The sessions don’t need to be complicated, just holding 70% of your maximum for an hour 2 times a week will help. For better impact on your running keep varying your cadence throughout the workout.

I remember when I was in College in Florida two of my running team-mates went to Europe for the summer and toured Europe on bicycles. They were pedalling smoothly around four hours a day, but did no running at all. When they came back they were skinnier and stronger than ever and had the season of their lives. After observing that… what else can I say? It has worked ever since.