Triathlon tips: Why technique is as important as running hard miles in training

Chris Bailey 12/05/2019
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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, part 2 and part 3 if you haven’t already.

Living in Dubai is a blessing in many ways, but this Ironman-in-training is in danger of melting.

Since the summer has thrown a blanket of heat over the country, running sessions will soon ‘boil’ down to two choices: the tedious treadmill or training at ungodly hours.

My body struggles with water retention at the coldest of times so, with just four weeks to go until I hit up my first Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire, the treadmill and I are going to become increasingly familiar.

The problem is, there are only so many podcasts or playlists you can listen to before your ears tap out. The solution? To tap into the knowledge of I Love Supersport Dubai.

ILSS Dubai’s premier running coach is Ethiopian Fanos Tekle, who has won more than 30 international races in her career to date and can run 10km in about 35 minutes.

As it sounded like she knew a thing or two about forward motion I moseyed on down to Zabeel Park one evening, where ILSS regularly hold running workshops for budding or improving runners.

I arrived complete with heart rate monitor, fitness watch, electrolytes and gritted teeth ready to be taxed – instead it was rather relaxed. The workout consisted of short and sharp exercises which, while intense for 30 seconds or so, was conducted at a pace where technique took precedence.

TWIST AND SHOUT

High knees, hip twists, star jumps, skipping with jumps and all manner of exercises designed to stretch and flex the body.

The point of all this? To get each part of your body working in harmony. While running may feel like the most natural thing in the world – we start to run almost as soon as we learn to walk – there is a big difference between plodding along and propelling yourself forward.

You may have bumped into older runners whose knees are suffering from the strain, but incorporate drills into your routine and there is nothing to stop you from being sprightly for decades.

I put some of my new-found knowledge to the test during the Run The Track Night Run at the Dubai Autodrome for a hot and humid 10km complete with a rather intimidating hill.

ILSSrunning (1)

LONG, HARD YARDS

In truth coach Dmitriy has been helping me lay the groundwork for months. Long and easy runs at no more than 75 per cent of maximum heart rate to get the miles in but not wear out the body. 100m and 200m sprints, with proper warm-ups and cooldowns, to get my body used to running at more intense speeds. Incline work on the treadmill to tone up the leg muscles.

Which is why despite the hot and humid conditions (and the 60k bike ride the morning of), I felt strong during the race. With Dmitriy having set target heart rates every 3k or so, I was never at a pace where I was gasping for breath.

Now, clocking in at a time of one hour and two minutes didn’t send the speed guns smoking. In more pleasant conditions though sub one hour would have been mine – and there weren’t even any grumbles from the body the following day.

Perhaps I’ll survive this thing in November after all.

COACH’S CORNER

Fanos Tekle – ILSS Dubai running coach

FanosTekleILSS3 (1)

Our main aim in our running groups and private sessions at I Love Supersport Dubai is to help runners achieve their goals without injury.

We help people train to finish a 10km race, half-marathon and marathon or set new personal best times.

Running more does not necessarily make you a better runner – that’s only one part of it. Doing strength training and drills are important to increase coordination and flexibility of the body. People who have too little of either have a high risk of injury, and they are wasting energy that they need to use for running forward.

Beginner runners can also make mistakes by doing the wrong type of training – mostly because they don’t know how to manage the pace and go too fast. Running three times a week is good enough for beginners, they need to run for just a short duration and focus on base training.

To get better the quickest way, find your main weakness and work more on it. Train continuously for three to six times a week, but in a regime that includes more running drills and strength work.

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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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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