Tagged: cycling

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #23 Don’t Break the Bank!

“31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of tips you can apply in your daily triathlon training in order to kick your performance to the next level without any inordinate expense in time or money.

What tips would you add to the list?

Today’s tip is #23: Don’t Break the Bank!

Pile of cash - triathlon equipment does not have to be expensive

Triathlon can be a very expensive sport. The average competitor at a race seems to be a well-off, upwardly mobile CEO that – judging by their equipment – is fantastically rich!

I sometimes feel inadequate just showing up to a race with my standard bike, cheap technical t-shirt and old gear, while surrounded by literally thousands of dollars of triathlon equipment!

But hey, this sport is about racing your competitors and pushing yourself to achieve your goals.

So, I say forget the fancy equipment, purchase what you can afford. It doesn’t have to be top-end or expensive:

  • Buy a second-hand bike, or last season’s model (the same thing only cheaper)
  • In fact, purchase all your equipment at the end of the season when it is on sale
  • Do you need a fancy tri bike? Would a road bike suffice, or a hybrid that you can use for commuting as well?
  • Invest time in maintaining your equipment to avoid damaging and having to replace it – clean your bike after riding it, oil it, wash your swimsuit out, pack away your wetsuit carefully
  • Ask yourself do you need all the expensive add-ons (carbon seat post, tri bars, aero helmet)
  • Non-brand t-shirts for working out in
  • Shop for workout gear in discounts stores like TJ Maxx
  • Rather spending a fortune on cancer-inducing sports drinks try cheaper alternatives such as bananas, tap water
  • Make your own energy bars rather than buying branded ones (which are not necessarily better)
  • Fueling yourself for all this training can be expensive – make a packed lunch using leftovers
  • Often employers will offer discounts for gym memberships
  • Spend $25 on a foam roller and save a fortune on sports massages
  • Chlorine eats away at swim suits – instead of pricey, longer tri shorts, try longer-lasting models such as Speedo Endurance. My pair of “togs” have literally lasted me 5+ years!
  • Bike/tri shorts are great for comfort but do you need a tri top? Why not a normal (technical) t-shirt or tank top?
  • Many people purchase sport-specific sunglasses but you can get away with your everyday pair at no cost in your race time

Obviously there are a TON of variables in triathlon and many more ways to save money as you participate. Decide what you want to spend your money on, but do not feel pressured to purchase the latest, fanciest, most expensive kit.

With that said, there are a few pieces you should invest in wisely, and where cheapest is NOT best:

  1. A bike that fits well and is safe to ride
  2. Safety equipment such as bike helmet, bike lights, reflective gear for running at night
  3. Wetsuit that fits (sleeveless can be cheaper than full-body so weigh up their relative merits)
  4. Comfortable shoes (these do not have to be expensive, just make sure they fit well)

We do this for enjoyment, don’t let money worries get in the way of that. And remember, it’s about you pushing yourself, not high tech equipment carrying you to glory.

What money saving tips do you have? What pieces of equipment do you spend more money on?

“31 Easy Tips” thus far:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle
#21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller
#22: Engage Your Core

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31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #22 Engage Your Core

We are now over two thirds of the way through the “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” series. Have you started implementing some of the tips? If so, I hope it is helping. Implementing a couple of items (again, don’t try to do too much) will improve your triathlon performance in a holistic manner without a huge investment in time or effort. Train smart.

Today’s tip is #22: Engage Your Core

Roman's Amazing Dad, age 77!

It is not just his abs working here! (ritavida’s flickr)

This isn’t about doing a few ab exercises after your workout. It means to really engage your core while training in order to drive your efforts.

The core is the group of muscles that control and support your spine and pelvis, i.e. the stomach, back, and hip muscles.

Arms and legs fatigue fast, so use your hips and abs and pecs – all massive muscles – to maximize the output from your efforts. Our focus is on maximizing the results of our efforts (i.e. efficiency), not just working hard and pushing ourselves.

Strengthen your core with plenty of sit-ups and core body exercises (planks, squats, push-ups, etc). Then engage your stronger, more powerful core when training and racing:

  • In the water:
    Use your torso to rotate your hips and drive your arm forwards. We can only get so much from our arms in the swim before they fatigue. Rotate to drive your hand to the front of the pull quicker, increase your distance per stroke and power through the pull. Rotating your hips also improves your streamlining in the water
  • On the bike:
    Engage your abs when cycling to ensure you are staying stable and getting max power from your glutes and quads. Don’t bounce around in the saddle, stay relaxed and power your legs. Ensure all your energy is focused in one direction: forwards
  • When running:
    Use your core to maintain good posture and keep your legs and arms pumping while maintaining balance. A strong core will also give you greater range of motion allowing you to reach and drive forward

A lot of people focus on particular muscles (“work those guns”) but it is <abs>olutely criminal to not leverage a huge source of power! Along with the technique benefits above, a stronger core will also help with injury prevention.

The list of “31 Easy Tips” series so far:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle
#21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #21 Grind it Out on the Foam Roller

How is the “31 Easy Tips…” series treating you? I hope it is helping. Implement one or two things from the list (don’t try to do too much) over the course of a few weeks and track your progress. These tips are elements of triathlon that you might not come to mind, but will contribute to improved performance without significant effort.

Today’s tip is #21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller

Using a foam roller for triathlon recovery stretching fitness

In this case “it” refers to any knot in your muscles. If you have tight or achy muscles a foam roller will help. The nature of triathlon is that we perform the same movements over and over – be it on the bike or while running – and this leads to sore and tight muscles.

You can use it before or after a workout as a form of massage and to break down trigger points in your muscles.

When you start using one, it will likely hurt like hell, so vary the pressure and ease into it, and after a couple of weeks it will hurt less as your muscles loosen up.

There are many benefits to using a foam roller. One major one is injury prevention – I used to have ITB problems but once I started foam rolling I have experienced no issues.

It is the one piece of equipment I recommend before all others. OK, maybe except for a swim suit!

All it takes is 10 minutes a few times a week. Incorporate it into your stretching routine and/or do it in front of the TV. Spend $20-50 on a foam roller and you have access to unlimited free massages!

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #14 Do Squat!

The “31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of easy-to-implement tips that provide avenues to improve your performance. Be it recovery, technique or trying something new in training, the tips are relatively straightforward and yield larger gains than simply doubling your efforts in practice.

Today’s tip is #14: Do Squat!

Not as in “do diddly squat“, but as in perform the “squat” exercise. Defined here, and widely considered to be one of the best exercises you can do.

Types and benefits of Squats for triathletes

The benefits of squats include:

  1. Increase functional strength
  2. Full body workout
  3. Improved running strength and increased watts on the bike
  4. Injury prevention
  5. and more

You don’t need a gym and a massive stack of weights, you can do various types of squats in your living room:

  1. Pistol squat
  2. Prisoner squat
  3. Jump squat
  4. Lunges
  5. etc, etc.

Do not injury yourself. That is an order!
Focus first and foremost on correct technique. Don’t try to out-squat all the heavies in the gym, and watch your knees. I repeat, do not give yourself bad knees.

If you are new to the exercise, ease into it, and be patient with results. Your legs will be tired at first but after a few of months of consistently performing squats you should notice the increased strength in your legs and core.

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath

It’s All About The Bike

4 Steps to the Perfect Bike Fit

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a good bike, but spending money on a bike fit will repay itself just minutes into your first long ride.

Offseason Cyclist

You will be more comfortable, have better technique, prevent injuries and get more power from your legs. It is worth every penny, particularly if you do not have an “average” body. I am 6’5″ and it’s hard (almost impossible) to get a decent bike within my budget, so I invested in a bike fit to help my money go further.

If you are going to get one done, make sure you spend your money wisely and maximize the value. Here’s a decent, quick summary from Active with tips on getting your bike fit.

bike fitting for triathlon

Seven Things Every Tour de France Cyclist Knows and Does

New to cycling? It’s daunting, eh? The clipless pedals, the speed, the traffic, trying to drink while cycling, flat tyres. Don’t worry, with time comes a greater level of comfort and soon it will be second nature to you. You can be as good at these elements as the pros on the Tour de France!

Tour de France professional cycling tips skills for triathlon Ironman

Here are seven tips and skills to kickstart your new cycling career:

1) Two bottle cages for longer rides: Keep hydrated or you may “bonk” and there’s nothing worse than bonking when you’re 50 miles from home!

2) Eating: can be tough as you grapple with wrappers. Prep in advance and pre-open your snacks so you can keep one hand on the handlebars at all times and avoid any jittery, wobbly handle bars!

3) Practice repairing a flat and carry a repair kit. You don’t want to suffer a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and have no idea how to fix it. Practice it before you encounter it! Remember the 7 P’s of Planning?

4) Pump your tires: don’t over-inflate or they might burst. Don’t forget to pump them so you are not cycling on flat tires and working harder than you need to. Pump them in the morning as you head out, as air escapes overnight.

5) Descending at speed: look ahead and anticipate obstacles and turns. Tap the brakes continuously rather than holding them down. When turning put plenty of weight on your outside pedal (if turning left, weight goes on right foot).

6) Helmet: make sure it fits and get a model you like and can trust. This will give you confidence. Check it regularly as they degrade over time.

7) Get a bike fit: you will be more comfortable physically on the bike and be able to ride longer as well as reach the brakes easier.

If you like spinning do this exercise

Spinning can lead to imbalances in leg muscles strength which can lead to sore knees and joints as one side of your leg pulls tighter than the other. A limited range of motion also means the entire leg is not working.

Ballet squats help strengthen the inner and outer muscles and offer a greater range of motion than spinning. Add this to your routine, particularly in the winter when you are doing more spinning.

ballet squats with dumbbells spinning exercises workouts to help triathletes leg strength

Start off initially without weights and then graduate to light dumbells once you make progress.

Be conscious of your form (knees & posture), and make sure each rep is controlled.

Adding this exercise to a good stretching and core strength program will help avoid any imbalances due to spinning.

What is the toughest part of a triathlon?

What makes it tough?

How do you try and improve that particular leg?

Let me know in the comments section. I will post tips on how to improve specific areas that you struggle with in the coming weeks.

Junk in, junk out

A lot of my athletes like to compare notes on their week’s training and try to outdo each other in terms of the hours or miles they racked up. It’s a pissing contest for who gets to be top dog that particular week.

I love the enthusiasm but has the athlete who did the most miles or hours progressed the most? i.e. what’s more important – quantity or quality?

This debate is summarized in Competitor magazine in the following article: Is There Such A Thing As Junk Miles? The article refers to running but it is equally applicable to triathlon in general.

quality vs quantity training for ironman triathlon

Partly because I work long hours in the day job, I am a firm believer that you don’t need to train hours upon hours to get results. I go for quality first.

We have to be efficient, have a plan and get the most out of each session.  Don’t train purely to reach a target of miles completed. Be comfortable maintaining a 3-4 sessions per week. As long as you are consistent and working hard you will see results.

On the other hand, what are junk miles? One theory is that “the only running that is not junk mileage is the higher-intensity stuff (tempo runs, hill repeats, track intervals”

I disagree.

A slow, steady run or swim will build your aerobic base and and burn fat. You can also incorporate drills into this session to also improve technique. Drills are always quality work if done well. Always.

In the end the author sits on the fence a bit where rather than going to either extreme he “advocates a balanced approach where mileage and faster running are given equal weight”.

I think the bottom line is don’t train for the sake of racking up a few miles.

Have a purpose or don’t do it at all. Go enjoy yourself instead.