Carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes

Understanding these carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes can improve race results.

It pays to place a well thought-out diet high on your priority list just as it’s important to learn the ins and outs of swimming, biking, or running.

TRAINING AND PROPER DIET WORK HAND IN HAND

It has been proven many times over that any diet will show more positive results if regular fitness is part of the equation. The same also holds true that you can train like a gladiator and stifle your athletic performance results if you don’t fuel your body properly.

Perhaps most of your adult life you have never given much consideration for what you were eating and have payed the price with excessive weight gain.

You have been puttering around like a “55” Ford and taking on low octane fuel that never burned properly and simply converted to fat. Once you begin to train for triathlon on a regular basis things begin to change dramatically.

Suddenly you are becoming a Ferrari that demands more attention to fueling and it is high octane all the way for best results as far as training, racing, and recovery.

DIET KEY FOR OPTIMUM ENDURANCE ATHLETE PERFORMANCE

Most people heard of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and know a little about them but are not quite sure how they fit into the equation when it comes to making the most of their training diet.

They most likely have also heard of the mystical wall that appears in the late stages of a marathon on a regular basis but have no idea why it happens.

There are marathoners(and I was one of them early in my running career)who would continually run right into that wall in race after race and have no idea how to prevent it.

I am no doctor or dietitian but over the years I have done enough research and race situation experimenting to be able shed some light on the subject.

If you intend to tackle long distance events like the marathon or the Ironman Triathlon these carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes should give you something to think about.

HAVE YOU EVER RUN INTO THIS WALL?

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

No matter if it’s running, triathlon, or any other sport that requires physical effort over an extended period of time you will not realize your best results until you grasp the role that carbohydrates and fats play in your endurance.

If you never change what is causing regular endurance melt-downs, you will continually run into the same problem and things will never improve.

Not only does it stop you from performing at your best, it also makes your race experience a lot more difficult and less enjoyable than it has to be.

I used to think that it was normal to have an energy crash late in a marathon around the 18-20 mile mark and came to expect it, but it was years later before I found out it could have been avoided.

Carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes

Adopting a diet structured for endurance will make a huge difference to your marathon results.


I simply did not know any better. Usually if I asked somebody about it they would say something like you went out too fast. Great! But how the Hell do I know what too fast is?

It all begins with the food you eat. In basic terms, the carbohydrates you eat are converted into energy. It is a misconception that in order to have more endurance you simply have to load up on more and more carbohydrates before the big race. To a point that is true, but there is a limit to the amount of carbohydrates your body will assimilate and after that it is over-kill and more is not necessarily better.

The carbohydrates we consume are converted to fuel in the form of glycogen and as a rule the average person has enough glycogen to last until about mile 20 of the marathon(hmmm). What a coincidence. At that point you have reached a state of carbohydrate depletion and your body shuts down and you are in for six miles of Hell out on the marathon course.

In a triathlon like a half-ironman and especially a full Ironman it might happen part way through the bike course or for sure out on the run course depending on how quickly you deplete your stores of glycogen.

So yes, in a way this happens when you go out too fast when the gun goes off but there is a way to figure out exactly what too fast is and how to avoid the energy melt-down.

FAT VERSUS CARBOHYDRATES FOR FUEL

Although the amount of glycogen we have available for energy is quite limited the same is not true of fat.

We have enough fat available for fuel to last hours longer than glycogen. So one of the major keys to improving endurance is to figure out how to burn fat as fuel instead of depleting our glycogen stores and experiencing an energy melt-down before the race is over.

When the gun sounds for the start of a marathon or the start of an Ironman Triathlon swim probably over 50% of the starting field takes off far too fast in the early stages.

What they are doing is tapping directly into their energy(glycogen)stores right from the start and are unknowingly setting themselves up for a date with the dreaded wall later on in the race.

Carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes

IM Couer d'Alene swim start

Chances are they will be shuffling along with dozens, or in many cases hundreds of others when they all meet exactly the same fate and run right into the wall at about the same point in the race as their energy is totally expended and their tanks run out of fuel.

Now go back to the same race start and lets look at the athlete who eases into the start of the race and is not getting swept up into the emotion of it all.

Believe me, whether it is a marathon or an Ironman the air is simply super-charged as everyone is anxious to go as they have trained long and hard for this day and have been resting up and their energy and anxiety levels are at their peak.

The athlete who has gone out slow is competing well within himself and is not pushing himself. When the gun sounds if will seem like he is being left so far behind by all those who are flying by him. It takes self-discipline to stay the course but it will be well worth it as the day unfolds.

Because this athlete is competing within his limits, he will be more apt to be burning fat as opposed to glycogen and therein lies the key to avoiding the dreaded invisible wall that has crushed so many dreams along the endurance race highway.

So the first thing to do is to figure out the best fats and carbohydrates to include in your diet for optimum results and just how much of each one should be eating.

QUALITY FATS FOR OPTIMUM ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

Many people have the idea that fat is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs, but that is a misconception. Fat is just as essential as carbohydrates to complete the combustion sequence that will provide the high octane fuel that will power you.

Fat is an essential ingredient in any quality diet, but Just make sure that it is a high quality choice. By high quality I mean fat derived from super-foods like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Do away with the cheaper less healthy vegetable oils and margarine. Wherever you can use olive oil and coconut oil in their place in your everyday cooking and favorite recipes.

I found that about 5-6 tablespoons of coconut oil a day used in meal preparation worked best when I was in dedicated triathlon training. I actually lost weight when I used coconut oil on a regular basis because coconut oil tends to speed up the metabolism.
Carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes
Other great options are chicken, turkey and sardines which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Limited amounts of dairy fats are okay as well, especially if they are raw and not pasteurized or homogenized. Organic dairy products are a better dairy choice as they have retained much more of their nutritional value.

Despite all the bad press that eggs have received for decades they have now become recognized as a healthy food. The yolk is a great source of lecithin, vitamin A, vitamin C, and many other nutrients. However they are best when not over-cooked. Poaching or boiling or perhaps raw in a smoothie are the best alternatives in order to retain the most in nutritional value.

I would view wheat germ oil, rice germ oil, and peanut oil as secondary choices. I always had natural peanut butter around and always make sure it does not have icing sugar or anything else added. Always read the label. Under ingredients all it should say is peanuts You will know when you have the right peanut butter when the oil has settled to the top and you have to mix it before you use it.

QUALITY CARBOHYDRATES FOR OPTIMUM ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

All carbohydrates are not created equal.

Carbohydrates basically fall into two categories called “simple” and “complex.”

If you just remember these rules of thumb when it comes to telling the difference from a simple carbohydrate and a complex carbohydrate you will pretty much have it figured out.

It it tastes really good and you almost guilty eating it than most likely it is a simple carbohydrate. If it is called “chocolate” anything then it is most likely a simple carbohydrate. It it comes at the end of a meal and has ice cream piled on top it is pretty much a 100% simple carbohydrate.

Carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes  ice cream

For "after" the race

If it is the last thing you see on the shelves beside you as you check out of a super-market, it’s most likely a simple carbohydrate. They are put there for a reason. They are called “impulse sales” as they trigger the sugar mechanism deep inside us and it calls out “just one Oh Henry won’t hurt.

The problem with simple carbohydrates is that they rush the sugar into our systems and create a sugar imbalance, and sometimes a “sugar crash” that can sap energy almost instantly.

I would not be exaggerating if I said that at the peak of my endurance career when I was having by far my best results in marathons and the ironman, that my diet consisted of almost 70% complex carbohydrates. The other 30% of my diet was divided between protein and fat.

However a good average to shoot for is 40% Carbohydrates, 40% protein, and 30% fat.

Yes sir, my meals revolved around oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, potatoes, and pasta. I didn’t really care if I had oatmeal every morning and pasta every night for weeks on end because to me it was simply fuel as I was training at a high intensity.

No matter how much I ate my weight was stable at between 148-152 pounds for years on end.

Because these carbohydrates are “complex” they take longer for the body to assimilate and do not rush into your bloodstream right away in the form of sugar. They actually provide a fuel that is burned in the fire of clean-burning fat.

The very same fats that I mentioned above.

In this day and age you have to practice caution when overloading your body with complex carbohydrates.

Agricultural growing practices have changed drastically in the past 3 or 4 decades. In order to keep up with market demand shortcuts are often take when it comes to growing the food we depend on.
Carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes

Most whole wheat these days comes from grain that has been altered in one way or another to speed growth.

I figured that out a long time ago and believe it or not, I actually used to spend 4 hours about once every three weeks making my own whole wheat bread from scratch with organic whole wheat flour.

That also meant I knew “exactly” what was added to my bread. In my case it was olive oil, molasses, honey, and seeds instead of poor fat and sugar choices.

It’s also wise to avoid white rice and white bread as they have most of the nutrients removed long before they ever get to your kitchen.

I love potatoes and just for myself I used to buy 20 pound bags when I was training like a gladiator. I soon discovered that potatoes are almost the purest form of carbohydrate there is and must be balanced with a protein in order to slow their absorption into the blood-stream.

I remember a pro triathlete once saying to me, “if I had my way I would haul about 5 baked potatoes with me in an Ironman.” So obviously he also realized the potential of this particular carbohydrate choice.

I used to do a long workout and then treat myself to about 4 large potatoes cut up and steamed with some onion and spices and often about an hour later had severe energy crashes until I figured out that I had to eat something else with the potatoes in order to slow their absorption rate.

In subsequent meals I topped the potatoes with cottage cheese or included eggs with the meal and the energy crashes stopped.

So it follows then, that if you are on a strict training diet and want to treat yourself to the occasional ice cream cone or Mars Bar, eat a cup of cottage cheese before you do and this will help balance the flow of sugar into your system.

SO HOW DO YOU BURN FAT FOR FUEL FOR BEST ENDURANCE RACE RESULTS?

So now we come down to how you put all this together to work for you when you are standing at the start line of the big race.

As I said earlier, it’s easy for someone to say you are going out to fast but nobody ever tells you how to determine what too fast is for you.

So here is a basic look at how you can figure it out and probably the best tool to help you get the most out of burning fat instead of glycogen burning is a heart-rate-monitor.

HOW A HEART-RATE MONITOR CAN HELP

Training and racing within your fat-burning zone(anaerobic zone) is the key to endurance race success. If you take your age and subtract it from 180, you will have a starting point.

So for examples sake, say you are 40-years-old. You will come up with a figure of 140 once you subtract 40 from 180. Go back ten beats from there to 130. So basically your fat-burning range is 130-140 and that is the heart-beat range where you want to do the majority of your training.

When you go for a run, simply check your heart-rate monitor and be sure you are staying in your fat-burning zone of 130-140.

It is always best to warm up first with a 5-minute brisk walk or easy run that is below 130 beats, so say you warm up at 110-125 beats before settling into your run at your fat-burning pace of 130-140.

During your training it’s important to avoid spikes in your heart-rate whenever possible. It might mean walking up steep hills at first so your heart-rate does not spike up 15 or 20 beats.

It might also mean that you will be running very slow at times and even walking until your heart-rate settles back down, but that is normal. This can take lots of patience, but it is well worth it.

Over the days, weeks and months as you train within that zone you will begin to run faster and further while staying in exactly the same fat-burning range. Congratulations! You are getting fitter.

The beauty of a heart-rate monitor is that it will not let you do more than you are capable of if you follow it to the letter. It you go uphill your heart-rate will rise, and if you go down-hill it will most likely fall as it takes less energy to go downhill and you slow down or speed up according to what your monitor is telling you.

Carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes and heart rate monitor

Heart-rate monitor


So basically, what you are accomplishing over time by burning fat for fuel in training is conditioning yourself to perform within your ability. So one day you will find yourself running faster and further and yet you are not working any harder than the early days when progress seemed so slow. You are still in the very same 130-140 heart-range.

So when you find yourself at the start line of a marathon for instance, you fire up your heart-rate monitor and when the gun sounds you do exactly what you did in all those months of training for this day.

Usually you can take the heart-rate up a little on race-day and you will still be aerobic and in the fat-burning zone and in this example 140-150 as opposed to 130-140 would most likely be about perfect.

A lot depends on your age and if you are in your 20’s it would be best to stick to your predetermined aerobic range and not change if upward for the race. If you do possibly just 5 beats, but no more.

If you are doing everything right and letting your heart-rate monitor guide you, you will slow down on the inclines on the course and speed up on the downhills. During this time your heart-rate should be in your per-determined aerobic, fat-burning zone.

In the process you are preserving your valuable glycogen stores for later in the race. So when every one who went blowing by you at the race start is walking or running very slowly at the 20-mile mark you will feel great and have lots left.

As you get into the late stages of the race you can most likely go for it and even race above your aerobic heart-rate because you have plenty left and it’s always a thrill to be passing dozens or even hundreds of others and have tons of fuel left in the tank.

Because you have not expended all your glycogen and have been burning fat for fuel all day, you still have lots of glycogen to use at the end and do not have to worry about hitting the wall any more as the race is almost over.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER FOR OPTIMUM TRIATHLON ENDURANCE

So there you have it. Those are some important Carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes.

It all begins with creating a proper diet and eating the right combination of fats and carbohydrates.

It also means choosing the very best fats and carbohydrates.

Once you have the diet figured out you take the next step of training and racing within your ability and at all costs avoid expending excess energy, especially early on in a race as there is no recovering lost energy during race day as it is gone forever.

I believe a heart-monitor is the best tool to help you achieve your goal and perform at your absolute best. As the years go by you may get a feel for the perfect pace for your training and racing, but sometimes is a skill not everyone can master.

Using a heart-rate monitor along with taking a few of these tips about carbohydrate facts for endurance athletes will go a long way to helping you achieve your goals.

I talk about setting up this heart-rate training method more extensively in my triathlon books and also discuss the diet components of fats and carbohydrates at more length and share information on how I make the most of coconut oil and olive oil for best results.

I have written five books and they have helped many people realize their triathlon goals and dreams. Once people buy into what I have to share in my books they realize that it is within their grasp to do something spectacular.

I really believe that people are capable of so much and they just don’t realize it and in many cases have given up on themselves. The books I have written are as much about inspiration and motivation as they are about swimming, biking, and running.

If you are just starting out in triathlon than Triathlete In Transition is the perfect book for you.

If you are a marathoner and becoming a triathlete is on your mind than you will get learn so much and be inspired and motivated by Ironstruck…The Ironman Triathlon Journey and Ironstruck? 500 Ironman Triathlon Questions and Answers.

In all three of my triathlon specific books I discuss at length the above topics concerning heart-rate monitor training, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil and the best over-all diet and foods in order for a triathlete to get the most out of their triathlon experience.

For more information on being a more successful triathlete or Ironman be sure to have a look at the books I have written that have helped many triathletes around the world realize their Ironman and triathlon dreams and goals.

You can visit my ironstruck book store and find the perfect book for the new or experienced triathlete doing their very first try a tri triathlon or the Ironman.

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Consequences of Ironman over training syndrome

Push yourself too hard and Ironman over training syndrome could end your career.

It would probably be not far off the mark to state that a good majority of endurance athletes suffer from obsessive/compulsive behavior of varying degrees.

Instead of succumbing to drug or alcohol addiction they channel their obsessiveness into endurance sports. I like to think of it as creative compulsions.

Take Lionel Sanders of Canada for instance. At one time he battled alcohol and drug addiction and then stumbled onto this event called Ironman. He decided to give it a try and the results were astounding.

Ultimately he set an Ironman world record in Ironman Arizona 2016 when he posted a time of 7:44:29.

However we are not all blessed with the same level of ability and talent.

Basically triathletes who have compulsive tendencies have Type A personalities on steroids. They live in a world of constant motion and they chase a finish line they will never reach. They never truly reach it because they keep setting the bar higher.

Clock a sub three hour marathon, bike further and faster, set personal bests, win your Ironman age-group. Train, train, train.

Rest becomes an afterthought and inconvenience. You attain a level of fitness that’s simply amazing and you want more. It’s almost like you push yourself to the outer limits of your ability because you have convinced yourself that your body will never break. It will never say enough.

This way of thinking is the fast track to Ironman over training syndrome. Your body will break and eventually it will say enough. When it happens it can be catastrophic.

Renowned South African exercise-science professor Timothy Noakes wrote in detail about the condition in The Lore of Running. Published in 1985, it’s one of the few books athletes with OTS have as a reference. The runners Noakes examined had pushed themselves to a point at which their bodies—and, more perplexingly, their minds—had simply stopped responding. As a result, they suffered everything from “generalized fatigue” and “recurrent headaches” to “an inability to relax, listlessness,” and “the swelling of lymph glands.”

When you think about it, it’s not really all that complicated. Over training syndrome happens when your body never gets rest. Normally you train and rest.

When you train your heart races and blood is channeled to the organs that are being stressed. Your system has a counter-balance. After a hard workout your heart rate and blood flow return to normal when you rest. However if you train and then train some more and leave rest out of the equation and suffer from OTS this re-balancing doesn’t occur and things start to go haywire.

Once you get to this state it can take weeks, months, or even several years to return to normal. Some athletes never return to normal and their careers are effectively over.

HOW DO YOU TELL IF YOU SUFFER FROM IRONMAN OVER TRAINING SYNDROME?

  • When you do decide to rest it doesn’t seem to help. You still feel tired. You’re tired all the time.
  • Your race results get worse instead of better.
  • Your muscles are weak and tired all the time.
  • You have pain in your joints.
  • You have headaches, sore throat, and always seem to have a cold.

That’s just the beginning. Those are just some of the early warning signs. It gets worse from there if you don’t start including rest into your training program on a regular basis.

I try and make it a point not to write about something I have never actually experienced myself. My Ironman career ended 13 years ago. For the longest time I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I know now that I have a severe case of Over training syndrome and there is no cure as far as I know.

From the first day I took up running I was obsessed. At that point I had never heard of triathlon. I ran 100 mile weeks all the time. One year I ran every day except for Christmas Day. Yes, I ran 364 days. My rest days were easy five mile runs. My distance days were anywhere from 3-5 hours. Complete rest was never in the equation.

I documented run training weeks that were 150 miles. I often ran twice a day. Obsessed may not be a strong enough word for it. Possessed would be a better description. Something deep in my psyche was driving me to push the outer boundaries of my physical capabilities.

Then the Ironman happened. Initially like most novice Ironman triathletes I just wanted to finish. After realizing that goal I wanted to finish faster. It was a never-ending quest. Soon I was an age-group triathlete training harder than Olympic athletes. They knew enough to rest. I didn’t.

The final straw was the year I was making the big push to be at or near the top of my age-group in Ironman Canada in Penticton. I had gone 10:46 and thought if I trained as hard as humanly possible I could get near the ten hour mark.

Five days a week I did interval training in the swim, bike, and run. On the sixth day I did distance. I lifted weights three times a week. I took one rest day and then did it all over again. At one point in those desperate days of training to exhaustion I went three weeks with no rest day.

One day I did 30 run repeats. Ninety seconds at 75% of effort–thirty seconds rest….repeat 30 times. Then I went to the pool and did twenty 100 meter repeats. Then I went home and got on my bike and did twenty 90 second repeats with 30 second rests on my wind-trainer. Then I went to work.

My full time job involved heavy, constant lifting. I was fifty and was outworking twenty year old co-workers. I was as driven at work as I was with my training yet I never considered work part of the equation when it came to burning energy and stressing my body. I was under physical duress for around 12 hours every day.

I went to my Ironman race that I’d trained insanely hard for and the Wednesday before the race I couldn’t sleep. The same thing happened Thursday, Friday, and Saturday–the eve of the race. I had never had insomnia in my life until that week. When the gun went off I was already on empty. I had about eight hours rem sleep in four days. I pulled myself out of the race 2km into the run. It was a miracle I made it that far.

That was 2002 and I have had insomnia ever since and without a sleeping pill can’t sleep more than an hour or two at a time.

It still never dawned on me what was wrong. I kept trying to train but I was always tired. I did two more Ironman races and they were both disasters.

CASCADING EFFECT OF IRONMAN OVER TRAINING SYNDROME

Finally I had no recourse but to leave the sport I loved. Everything started to break down.

Here is what I deal with now. It was a complete physical breakdown.

I have…

  • Tinitus in one ear
  • Microscopic Colitis
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Fibromyagia
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Tingling sensation in face and arms
  • Constant headaches
  • Depression
  • Muscle soreness
  • Very poor circulation leading to blood clots

For the longest time I thought it was all these different diseases and symptoms that were taking away my energy and ability to train and race. But it was the other way around. I had it backwards and realize now that it was the training and racing with inadequate rest that caused this cascading physical meltdown.

I didn’t realize some 15 years ago that I was a victim of Ironman Over Training Syndrome. It’s extremely frustrating because for all intents and purposes I look normal and healthy. As a matter of fact my body weight is exactly the same as it was in 1984 when I did my first Ironman.
ironman over training syndrome-Ironstruck
Doctors don’t have an answer. There are no drugs they can prescribe to cure Ironman over training syndrome, so they’re lost. Instead they treat the symptoms. I kept going to my doctor and specialists trying to find out what was wrong with me. All the tests came back negative. “Things are great!” my doctor said. No they weren’t. Things were a million freaking miles from great.

It’s tiresome trying to make people understand just how bad I feel pretty much all of the time. I have found it easier to just withdraw from people and stick to myself. I don’t have relationships of any kind because I don’t have the energy to do anything and I’m tired of trying to explain myself. Most likely there are people who wonder what has become of me.

There are people in the world who understand what’s happening, but they are few and far between.

David Nieman, former vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine once said, “OTS is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my 30 plus years of working with athletes. To watch someone go from that degree of proficiency to a shell of their former self is unbelievably painful and frustrating.”

I still try and run. It takes everything I have to run at a slow pace for 30 minutes and it often takes two days to recover. Hard to believe there was a time I ran over 30 marathons, two 50 mile races, finished 11 Ironman Triathlons, and clocked a 35:30 10K.

I think it was critically important to write this article. If nothing else I hope it inspires someone out there to take it to heart and begin to incorporate more rest time into their training program and avoid Ironman over training syndrome.

There has been considerable evidence published that reducing the volume of your training for up to three weeks will not decrease performance. If need be take an entire week off from training. Take a year off from the Ironman and do shorter races. Listen to those early warning signs of Ironman over training syndrome and make adjustments to your training.

That’s how you will get faster and that’s how you will have a healthy lifestyle for years to come.

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Visit Ironman.com for information on upcoming WTC Ironman Triathlon events.

Women triathletes and weight training

Women triathletes and weight training for optimum results

Gaining a competitive edge is very possible when women triathletes incorporate weight training into their race preparation.

There are many who believe there is nothing to be gained by women hitting the weight room in order to improve as triathletes. However that’s a myth and weight training is becoming the norm among women of all ages.

Almost half of the people who are new to the sport of triathlon in any give year are females. Many are new to swimming, biking, or running. The concept of women lifting weights could well be foreign to them.

It’s a common misconception that the testesterone charged atmosphere of the weight rooms of the world is a male domain. Some women might feel they would sort of stand out in the weight room and so avoid it.

Recently women of all ages have been adopting weight training

These days it’s highly possible that you will see women of all ages in the weight room pumping some iron. Seniors are becoming more familiar with the advantages of improving their overall fitness. Sure they might not be using much weight but you don’t really have to lift super-heavy weights in order to realize positive results.

Weight training can improve strength, endurance, and flexibility and does not have to necessarily be geared toward having big muscles.

women triathletes and weight training

Don’t forget about strengthening hamstrings


Women triathletes and weight training should be centered around developing strength and endurance over the long haul of a triathlon run and bike especially.

I would not worry so much about specific upper body muscles but rather would focus on spending your time on exercises that focus on full body strength and endurance.

If you improve your biking ability through strengthening and conditioning, then a better run will often be the end result. So by doing one exercise properly and spending just 20 minutes in the weight room at least 2 or optimally 3 time per week you stand a very good chance of realizing better results on race day.

The squat is the best all-around weight training exercise for women triathletes

Of course this is just my own personal opinion and you can take it or leave it, but I believe that doing “squats” is most likely the key exercise for women triathletes and weight training.

Although it might seem squats only strength the lower body, nothing could be further from the truth. Of course it will greatly benefit the bike and run that comprise some 90% of an Ironman but squats also impact back and shoulder muscles for the swim.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do upper body exercises specifically for the swim, but you have to look at the time spent training/reward ratio.

weight training-woman triathletes

Squats are a key exercise for triathletes

In the early 1980’s the Puntos twins from Quebec were beginning to make a splash on the Ironman Hawaii scene as pro women triathletes.

I remember them saying back in Kona in 1984 that early in their career they struggled with the bike portion of the triathlon. They were excellent swimmers and ran well enough to consider trying to qualify for the Olympic Marathon. The twins claimed that it was being introduced to squat repetitions by their coach that made them much improved cyclists. Once they became well-rounded Ironman triathletes they reached the top of the podium and in 1984 Sylvianne and Patricia were first and second in Ironman Hawaii in Kona.

They did squat repeats almost to failure but did many, many repetitions in order to get there. They used about 50%-55% of the maximum weight they could manage. For example, when I decided to adopt their squat weight training philosophy I would max out at around 380 pounds of weight for a few squats, so I used 200 pounds for my squat repetitions. I did half-squats and not full squats. With a full squat the stress on your knees is just too much and a half-squat will produce the results you want.

I worked my way up to 75 squats at the peak of my Ironman training. They were done in 3 sets of 25 repetitions with about a 2 minute rest in between sets.

Each set was done at a fast steady pace one rep after another until the 25 were done. The third set was challenging and at first I could not do all 25 of the last set, but eventually I was able to complete the entire workout every time.

weight training and women triathletes

Weight training made Puntos Twins better cyclists.

If you look at the image, the woman pictured weight training is doing a half-squat using a squat lifting station. Also make note of her straight back as this is crucial to good form. You do have the option of putting a small weight behind your heel as she has. It does help maintain a better body position, but personally I never used it.

I found that the change in my strength and endurance especially out on the Ironman bike course was dramatic and because the bike went better, so did the run.

It made a big difference on the hills and I was able to sustain a good pace for a longer period of time on the flats. So obviously there was an improvement in both strength and endurance.

I always did 15-20 reps first with a very light weight just to warm up the muscles and they were not part of the 75 rep workout. For instance you could just use the bar with no weight to warm up.

All you really need is about 15-20 minutes in order to do the entire workout and it will produce results. I did this work-out 3 times per week and usually just before my swim work-out. I would suggest at least 2 times a week and 3 times as a maximum with rest days in between to allow time for the muscles to re-build.

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Each individual will use a different amount of weight. So for example if you are a a woman and can squat no more than 80 lbs. 4 or 5 times at your maximum, you would use 40-55 lbs. for the squat repetitions.

At that weight you should be able to do far more repetitions yet at the same time be challenging your muscles to improve in strength and endurance. At first you could try 3 sets of 10 reps and then increase it over time to 15 and then 20 and 25.

Be sure to use a squat exercise “station”as opposed to doing the squats freestyle. This allows for much more control and they have safety stops you can put in place in case you tire and have to let the weight down. When you use a squat machine you will not require a spotter in order to do the workout.

It’s all relative. The benefit is the same regardless of the difference between the amount of weight each person can squat, so don’t think you have to squat 100’s of pounds in order to see results.

So yes, I believe that women triathletes and weight training exercises can help women triathletes perform at their highest level and if you can fit it into your training schedule I would consider giving it a try for 12-14 weeks before the big race and see how you do.

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Triathletes and an indoor bicycle training stand

Triathletes can sharpen technique and maintain fitness by using an indoor bicycle training stand.

If you’re a triathlete and happen to live in a part of the world that has snowy, frigid winters than an indoor bicycle training stand better known as a wind-trainer might just be the perfect training tool for you. Your triathlon training won’t miss a beat in the winter and in many ways it’s actually superior to training out on some dusty highway.

Better yet, an indoor bicycle training stand is also exceptionally handy to have around all year. There are numerous reasons why owning an indoor bicycle training stand might be the smartest investment you ever make.

SIX REASONS TO CONSIDER BIKE TRAINING INDOORS

  • Weather will never be an issue when you just have to get that bicycle training in. Wind, snow, or rain, you will always be able to stay bike fit.
  • You can put a bicycle training stand in pretty much any room where you have a little bit of extra space. For those long indoor rides park it in front of the television and watch your favorite movie.
  • You will never have to worry about potholes, dogs, or motor vehicle traffic. Mechanical failures that leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere would be a non issue.
  • If nature calls, there’s a bathroom just down the hall.
  • Need some water or something to eat. The kitchen isn’t very far away.
  • Heading out for a run after an indoor session on your bike is ideal transition training for race day. If you’re short of time you can do a bike session followed immediately by a 30-60 minute run. This will give you a good idea what to expect on race day as you get off your bike and put on your running shoes.
bicycle indoor training stand

Bike Train at Home

BIKE TRAIN NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE

There are people all over the world who are interested in becoming triathletes. They may even have the urge to take on the Ironman. There are isn’t always a highway nearby for bike training on a regular basis. For this reason many aspiring triathletes give up on the idea of being part of the sport.

There is really no reason one couldn’t do the bulk of their triathlon bike training without ever leaving their home. You can work on technique, endurance, and speed on an indoor bicycle training stand. You can do interval training and use bigger gears to mimic hill climbing.

Of course it would be helpful to do at least some of your bike training outdoors to work on balance and cornering. Other than that there’s no reason why 75% or more of your bike training can’t be done in the comfort of your own home.

Of all the triathlon equipment you buy, an indoor bicycle training stand could well be the most valuable.

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Triathlon training

Optimum triathlon training requires careful planning.

My intention is not to set up a triathlon training program for you. There are plenty of great coaches who are more qualified to do that for you.

Instead I would just like to suggest a few guidelines that may make your preparation for your first Ironman or triathlon a bit easier.

As a rule, your training-week will most likely total anywhere from 12-16 hours.

How you set up your training will depend in large part on which of the disciplines you may already be quite skilled at and which need a lot of work.

It also depends if you decide to incorporate other elements into your training like weights or yoga for instance.

If you are new to triathlon it would seem to make sense to concentrate on learning all you can about swimming, biking, and running and how to make the transition from one discipline to the other and add other components to your training at a later date.

Most people only have a limited amount of time to spend on training and it’s best to spend that time learning all you can about proper technique in swimming and biking as this will be a major key to your enjoyment and success in triathlon.

triathlon training

Cycling is therapeutic and a huge part of triathlon cross-training for #triathletes.


If you are not a swimmer, then I would suggest at least 4 days of swimming per week be included in your triathlon training until you become more comfortable in the water.

It will pay you HUGE dividends if you have a smooth, energy saving stroke come race-day. If you are a runner, you would probably get by with 3 running days a week and spend more time on the other elements.

A normal training training week might consist of 4 swims, 3 runs, and 3 bike sessions. Whenever possible try and do two disciplines per day. With the exception of the days when you do long bikes or runs of two hours or more.

In that case only do the one discipline. As you gain more experience and get in better shape you will be able to add another workout to a long bike or run.

Early on in your training year you should have at least 2 days of full rest and perhaps even 3. Or as an alternative, have 2 full rest days and a “very easy” day of training. This is sometimes referred to as “active rest”.

Perhaps a swim workout that focuses on working on your technique might be a good active rest day. You can use your rest days for a visit to the chiropractor, massage therapy, spend with friends or family, or just to relax and maybe do some visualization about your upcoming race.

Be sure to have your rest day the “day before” you have a long bike or run planned. Also make sure the day after is an easier day or perhaps another rest day.

Its really important to get used to the bike-run transition. So I would suggest that once a week for sure you bike at least an hour(exercise bike or wind-trainer is fine)followed within 3-4 minutes at the most by a run of at least 30 minutes.

This will give you a good idea how the different muscles react to that transition. This is a very key part of your training-week.

There will be times when you just feel totally worn out after weeks of steady training. When that happens take a full weekend off and do nothing at all connected with your Ironman training. When Monday arrives you’ll be all set to get back at it.

Every four or five weeks it would also be a good idea to just have an easy week. Maybe do just one maintenance work-out per day for 5 days, have your full two days off and then go back to your regular training program.

Often potential Ironmen forget how important rest is. Its a vital component of your preparation. Training 25 days straight without let-up will not guarantee a successful race. I know, I’ve tried it. If anything it could lead to injury.

If anything out of the ordinary starts to hurt and its a pain you’ve never felt before—stop what you’re doing!! Rest it and then try again.

For instance, if you feel something in your knee while running that could potentially be an injury surfacing, don’t keep running on it. Perhaps swim for a few days–because its non-impact,give your knee a rest, then try a short run and see what happens. This is a smart approach to triathlon training.

If it feels fine, then don’t worry about it. Just monitor it for the next few runs. If it persists, have it checked out.

Its important to keep your triathlon training week as consistent as possible, but not when it might lead to serious injury. Just take a step back and look after it before you carry on with your program.

Early in my career, I was injured several times because I insisted on training through pain and made a bad situation worse. Don’t fall into that trap.

If you work out a training training plan that fits your lifestyle, watch your diet, use proper fluid and food replacements while training, and have proper rest, you will be well on your way to enjoying a long, successful triathlon career.

For more information on being a more successful triathlete or Ironman be sure to have a look at the books I have written that have helped many triathletes around the world realize their Ironman and triathlon dreams and goals.

You can visit my ironstruck book store and find the perfect book for the new or experienced triathlete doing their very first try a tri triathlon or the Ironman.

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