Why strength training is so important for Ironman triathletes - with ILSS Dubai

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Sport360°’s Chris Bailey has signed up for the challenge of his life in November – an Ironman. Follow his adventure as he prepares his body for a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and a marathon to finish … check out part 1 and part 2 if you haven’t already.

There really is nothing worse than sickness for an athlete – even a wannabe like me.

I had feared that my first experience of skiing would end with me sprawled somewhere down the mountainside having careered into a crevasse. Instead I spent half the holiday sprawled in bed, having careered into the flu.

It took me a week and a half to shake off the leech of a cough before I could simply train again, and such was my desperation to catch up that I launched myself into 12 back-to-back training days.

I Love Supersport Dubai coach Dmitriy – whom I hadn’t seen for much of March while on my travels/sickbed – was suitably unimpressed. But with 10 weeks to go until my first crack at an Ironman-branded event, Staffordshire 70.3 (half the distance of the real thing), I felt compelled to catch up.

Dmitriy gave me a reality check, complete with a few reminders. I had sprung my little jaunt-that-turned-sickly on him too soon, so communication was the first thing. Monitoring my resting heart rate, one of the best ways to assess fatigue, was another. We also arranged to check my bike set-up and lay the groundwork for my next block of training, which is designed to soup up my (meagre) strength.

HUSTLE AND MUSCLE

Think of triathletes and you certainly don’t think of rippling muscles bursting out of tiny lycra oufits (well, perhaps the lycra). In the ideal world, endurance athletes are streamlined, supple and possess vast reserves of stamina – with muscles seemingly superfluous in that equation.

Wrong. Triathlons stress the entire body. When your legs and arms are in motion, it’s your core, lower back, glutes et al that help maintain form and posture. Start flagging without the requisite training and you’re in danger of crumpling.

So with this knowledge in my armoury, I met coach Melina and ILSS’s other triathletes-in-training for a bright and breezy 6am start at Jebel Ali.

An hour with Melina, an experienced Ironman competitor herself, flies by. Just as well – the exercises are tough. But the fast-paced, no-nonsense circuit training allows little time to reflect on the aches as you move from exercise to exercise, swapping with your classmates.

There was the motivating feeling that we were all in this together – there’s a camaraderie at ILSS which is impossible to replicate at a standard gym class, let alone on your own.

I loved it so much (and because Dmitriy had me down for it), I attended Melina’s class twice in three days. Tired? Yes, but all the tauter for it.

Personally, the beauty of triathlon lies in the variety of the three disciplines and it feels like I’ve found a fourth. Is there a fifth? Ah yes, rest … the boring one. I’ll give it a go.

COACH’S CORNER

Dmitriy Firsov – ILSS coach

When Chris came to me for the first time, we had a few issues with swimming and endurance. Ever since, we have been working to improve technique and endurance base in all three disciplines. As of now we have finished the swim block and have moved on to the special endurance, more focused on bike and run, which takes up 80 per cent of the race.

The ‘check-up’ with a coach helps to monitor the condition of the athlete, identifying any issues (tiredness, pain etc) and helping to understand how to manage it. But the most important thing is to have a talk with your coach in the first place. Why? The coach can see the bigger picture in terms of your preparation and performance and even foresee some situations, if you share your feelings during or after training. I have a chat with each of my athletes at least once a week.

Being a coach is a lot of responsibility. It’s not just about putting together a training plan and giving advice – you are managing someone’s life on a daily basis. That’s why it’s very important to stay in touch all the time, understanding how the athlete lives, what’s his/her daily routine. Everyone has their own problems, needs and circumstances. Sometimes you have to be hard and give an extra push, but sometimes you just have to support your athlete.

Strength training is one of the main building blocks in triathlon. It helps us maintain a high level of performance and avoid injuries. Whatever discipline we train, our entire body is working. According to ‘Scientific Triathlon’, strength training improves a five-minute cycling time trial by seven per cent, and a five-minute running time trial by 4.7 per cent.

The tested group also showed a 5 per cent increase of v02 max. We recently started Chris on our specific I Love Supersport Triathlon strength endurance training, which are group sessions at Jebel Ali Recreation Club, so we are expecting a massive improvement from him in this area in the next few weeks.

The biggest mistake people make in triathlon is overestimating their own abilities. They like to push themselves to the limit, but it must be backed up by a strong body and mind. According to USA Triathlon research, 74 per cent of people who train without a coach receive an injury (lack of knowledge, overestimating their abilities, too little recovery etc). A coach can help you to stay healthy, strong and stay away from injuries.

I Love Supersport Dubai is the premier international endurance sports school. No matter your age or ability, achieve your goals as a swimmer, runner, cyclist and triathlete under the tutelage of some of the region’s best coaches. Visit dubai.ilovesupersport.com for more details.

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Australia edge USA in tight mixed relay battle at Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019

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Australia edged out the US in the mixed relay in Abu Dhabi.

The season-opener of the World Triathlon Series concluded on Saturday, as the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019 hosted its final races for athletes aged 11-70+ at Yas Marina Circuit.

The much-anticipated Mixed Relay drew in strong crowds as teams of four athletes representing 22 countries battle it out over a 300m swim, 6.6km cycle and 1km run – the super sprint format.

Team USA started strongly thanks to Taylor Spivey, who had a solid cycle and run, to take her compatriots into the lead ahead of the first transition/relay ahead of Australia and Germany.

As the sun continued to heat up, so did the action on the track. Australia’s Emma Jeffcoat on the third leg managed to pull things back, before Friday’s Elite Women’s winner Katie Zaferes did what she does best, dominating the run, setting up Eli Hemming nicely to bring the gold home for the Americans.

However, the Aussies managed to boomerang back into the lead thanks to Jacob Birtwhistle’s impressive cycle and run, seeing him win first place for his country in a time of 01:24:16.

The USA enjoyed a roaring battle with the Aussies.

The USA enjoyed a roaring battle with the Aussies.

The US clinched second place a mere five seconds later, while France, who were third going into the final leg of the race, lost out to New Zealand as a final surge from Hayden Wilde saw the Kiwis cross the line in third place in 01:24:31.

Speaking about his team’s performance, Birtwhistle said: “We’ve got a lot of depth in our team, and there is a lot expected of us.

“We show that every time we come out on the relay and manage to put in a solid performance. It was a great race, from us and also Team USA, but obviously we’re delighted with the win here in Abu Dhabi.”

Although finishing in second place with Team USA, Ben Kanute was proud of the team and their performances, saying: “Despite not winning I still think we had a really solid performance all around.

“And Jake (Birtwhistle) is one of the best super sprint guys in the world so I think our team held on really strongly and it’s still early in the season, so we have a lot of room to grow. A podium is our goal every time – we nailed it today.”

The second day of the World Triathlon Abu Dhabi kicked off with the Olympic Triathlon category athletes. Facing distances of 1,500m, 40km, 10km of swimming, cycling and running respectively, the cooler temperatures were welcomed.

Winning first in the men’s 35-39 age group division was Oscar Balta with a time of 2:01:58, while Aday Diez de Ulzurrun took gold in the men’s 30-34 age group division in 2:02:05; closely followed by Ireland’s Jason Fahy just over one minute later.

Speaking about taking the podium top-spot, Balta said: “The race was amazing – perfect temperature, perfect weather conditions. I was happy with my swim, the bike was a little bit tricky in the corners, and I ran a lot better than expected.

“I’ve been racing here since 2016 – it’s a race I always bring my family to. The organisation of this event has been perfect. The kids have lots to do and it feels more like a family day out than a regular triathlon day.”

In the women’s division, Najla Al Jeraiwi from Kuwait took the gold putting in a time of 2:18:33 for the 30-34 age group division, while Brit Kayleigh Dawson – in her first ever triathlon – took gold in the 25-29 age group division in a time of 2:19:06.

Al Jeraiwi said: “I just love racing, and WTS Abu Dhabi is one of my favourite events. The swim and bike went really well, despite being used to sprint distances; I’m really happy with the result today and can’t wait to come back.”

Dawson, smiling from ear-to-ear after her first triathlon, said: “I feel there was a bit of luck for me today.

“I’ve been doing some training at Al Hudayriat Island and I am a strong open water swimmer; the cycling: there were so many tight turns and U-turns and even after a bad cycle accident six months ago, I thought ‘you know what, you’ve got four limbs, get out there and test yourself in a race.”

Supporting the 2,600 athletes at Yas Marina Circuit were fans, friends and families who all took advantage of the bustling Event Village.

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Mario Mola and Katie Zaferes claim victory at Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019

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Mario Mola was again a victor in Abu Dhabi.

The Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019 ignited the World Triathlon Series on Friday, as the strongest field of elite athletes to have ever graced the capital battled it out on the blue carpet at Yas Marina Circuit.

Reigning world champion and now a three-time winner in Abu Dhabi, Mario Mola showed his experience and finesse, after a blistering run saw the Spaniard cross the finish line in 52 minutes. But Mola was given a run for his money, as WTS debutant and equally impressive runner Alex Yee kept Mola within his sights, despite being almost 10 years his junior; a hug at the end of the race showed a mutual respect of each other’s athletic abilities.

Yee, the up-and-coming 21-year-old Brit, completed his first WTS race with a solid time of 52.03. The podium was complete by Mola’s fellow countryman Fernando Alarza, with a time of 52.12.

The race itself, however, wasn’t as clear cut as some may have expected, especially with Richard Varga, a powerhouse in the water, storming out of the first section as the leader. It didn’t take long for last year’s winner Henri Schoeman to emerge and display his prolific cycling ability, as he fought his way into lead the race in the second discipline.

But it was the run where Mola and Yee came into their own. Despite Kiwi Hayden Wilde storming out the blocks and creating a healthy distance between him and the chasing pack, the New Zealander slowly succumbed to the pace and drive of Mola and Yee.

Despite resistance from Yee, it was arguably Mola’s experience that propelled the 29-year-old ahead, as he emerged as the winner of the Men’s Olympic category.

Taylor Spivey made it a one-two for the US in the elite women's race.

Taylor Spivey made it a one-two for the US in the elite women’s race.

“I really had to dig deep in order to bridge the gap,” said Mola. “I knew that if I could run consistently well then I knew it would be a good fight. But when you have guys like Alex and Fernando racing it’s going to be tough; well done to them.

“I had to work really hard. I’m very happy with this especially as it is the first race of the season, and it’s great having this new generation like Yee and Wilde to compete with.”

Commenting on his first WTS race, Yee said: “This has been above and beyond my expectations. It’s been incredible to compete with the likes of Mario, Henri, all of them – these guys have been my idols so to get out there with them has been amazing.”

It was only a couple of years ago that the young Brit had an almost career-ending accident, Yee’s transition from exciting junior prospect to the U23 ranks appeared to be halted by a horrific mid-race crash at an ITU World Cup event in Italy in 2017.

But that clearly hasn’t put off the London-born Yee. “They were hard times and getting to this kind of level seemed very far away at certain points, so to be here in Abu Dhabi, after so much hard work, is credit to all the effort that myself and my team has put in,” added the British 10,000m champion.

The elite ladies in the afternoon didn’t disappoint either, as world No2 Katie Zaferes clinched first place and maximum points to kick off her season with a time of 55.31, followed by fellow American Taylor Spivey in second in 55.57, while Jessica Learmonth from the UK ensured it wasn’t a clean sweep by the US with a respectable 56.06.

Zaferes didn’t seem to slow down at any point, especially in her run where she created a 26-second gap between herself and compatriot Spivey as she crossed the finish line.

The 29-year-old delivered a strong and professional race, proving she really is one of the contenders for the season with an impressive cycle and run.

“Even though my muscles felt a little tired before the race, it couldn’t have gone more perfectly for me,” said the Maryland native. “I managed to have a strong bike session which is always the plan. This is a great start to my season and I just want to keep getting better; last season really showed me what I need to do this year.”

After collecting her silver medal, Spivey commented on the leading pack and its strong American contingency, saying: “It was really hard to tell who was where in the first two laps of the bike, but we could see the gaps starting to appear before the run.

“Now with these points counting towards Tokyo (Olympic Games) it’s fantastic to see that we (Americans) are so strong. So it’s great to start the 2019 season with a second place finish.”

Delivering a gutsy performance was Learmonth, determined to get on the podium. She jokingly said: “I’m sick of them getting clean sheets so had to shove one out.

“It’s a big year for me and the girls are so strong, so it was a goal for me to simply just get round. It was a tough race but I’m happy with today and I’m going to just take each race for the rest of the season one at a time.”

Alongside the elites, over 600 junior triathletes took to the tracks and waterways of Yas Marina. Away from the race course action was plenty of entertainment in the Event Village.

Day two of the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019 continues on Saturday, with over 2,000 amateur triathletes set to race, as well as the brand new elite racing format – the Elite Mixed Relay.

For more information, visit: www.abudhabi.triathlon.org.

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