How to Dial in your Transition

Transitions offer the unique opportunity for time savings with no physical costs. These savings can only be realised through planning, practice and training. An additional benefit of effective and planned transitions is lower emotional stress.

When it comes to everything in triathlon, we want to absolutely cut the time we spend in any race being passive.

This is especially true during transitions. Sitting on a bench (or your butt) in transition is the epitome of passive and we want to minimise that time. There needs to be purpose behind every action

Understanding transitions: The first steps to a successful transition are to:
Nail down a repeatable, easily adaptable transition plan. Write it out, step by step – every detail. It should be so ingrained as to require little to no thought. If there’s any doubt to the order you plan to do something in transition, then you haven’t practiced it or refined it enough. Practice.

Know the course: Study the swim exit, the run, where your bike will be racked, the bike exit, bike entrance and the run out. You must know and mentally rehearse your route.

Understand the transition type: Each race can do things differently, so make sure you know the transition type. Does it have change tents? Can you leave things by your bike? What do you do with the wetsuit? Reading and knowing the rules is simple but important in every race.

Nail your routine: Adapt your transition plan to the constraints of the course you are racing. Defining transition is a powerful way to keep emotional and physical energy costs as low as possible and leave space for effective and smooth progression to the next discipline. This should include:

Start the process before the start: Toward the end of swim or the bike, begin thinking through the upcoming transition and process, as well as prepping the body from going from one activity to the next.

This prior planning and mental prep avoids the unneeded panic that ensues for the surprised and the unprepared.

Rinse and repeat: Out of the water it is unzip the wetsuit (or skin suit), run up the ramp, goggles and cap off, take the top of the suit down to the waist, and on and on. The same routine, every time. The same applies for arriving at the bike rack. The same order, the same routine. Make it habitual.

Don’t panic: Your heart rate can race here, aim to stay calm, lower your breathing and drive toward purposeful effectiveness over chasing and racing through.
Stuff happens:

Transitions are seldom 100% smooth. Things get caught, it is tough to get the wetsuit off, you trip, etc. Anything can happen. Roll with it and keep a level head.

Practice: Nail this approach and you can save energy, ensure you are fast (it is about the only ‘free’ time you can claim), and minimise the embarrassment of having the fastest swim, bike AND run in your category, but only getting 3rd!

I hope this helps.

Early Season Race Tips

Is race season really here? While you can race triathlon year-round these days if you’re willing to travel, we are very close to the Season kicking off.

I think it is critical that we all understand the value, approach and lessons to be gained from the initial races of the season. For athletes that race throughout the spring and summer and even autumn months, building out a season of races, you should be aware that you cannot expect or hope to hold your top performance through an entire season.

I urge all athletes to maintain a wide-angle view on your personal seasonal progression. The vast majority of athletes have key races in May to July and/or August to November time. This means that early season races need to play an important part in your journey progression and be viewed as stepping-stones.

For most athletes, March is not the time to be firing on all cylinders, so ensure you view your early races in the correct lens. Their primary roles include:

* Refine pacing strategies and allow lessons to arrive from them.
* Test fuelling approaches.
* Use as a fitness booster and mental skills development (the perfect simulator of a KEY race).
* A benchmark of current fitness and performance – note that this is different than a judgment of training success!

Your success is determined throughout an entire season, not through early season races. However, you DO want to make these early races as specific and valuable as possible. You should also aim to integrate positive habits that will feed into the key races upcoming.

Here are some SISU Racing race approach tips:

* Race day protocols: Follow your key race day protocols with respect to pre-training, pre-race dinner and breakfast, fueling and hydration approach.
* Nail pacing: While it might all be a little slower, set yourself up for success with conservative pacing that mirrors the pacing strategy you would implement for a key-race.
* Racing Mindset: You still want to retain a mindset of racing and high effort. Just because it isn’t a goal race, doesn’t mean effort should drop.
* Arrive prepared: Course knowledge, equipment readiness, emotional readiness. It is STILL a race.

You can race with a smile and without pressure.

You have nothing to lose at this time of the season!

Best wishes for your races!

The Busy Athlete

This weeks theme is “the busy athlete,” which is a bit of an oxymoron since I challenge you to find anyone that claims they’re “not busy.” Throw training for swimbikerun into the mix and many triathletes are juggling a fairly hectic schedule.

At SISU Racing, we encourage athletes that it is completely possible to maintain balance in their busy lives, even in pursuit of personal triathlon goals.

I think the first important thing to say is that it is critical that athletes be really honest with their relationship to the sport and their training schedule. Some athletes, including many SISU Racing athletes, are completely dedicated to high performance (or elite performance), meaning that they sacrifice things across many elements of life most feel would be normal and healthy.

Our pro and elite athletes are chasing very high-end performance. This does not mean that every SISU Racing athlete has to subscribe to that level of commitment. At the same time, every SISU Racing athlete can expect to seek improvement and results.

Let’s first remember the four principles that will allow performance evolution:

o Patience: It takes time!

o Progression: We always aim to progress the load and training stress.

o Specificity: We need to nail specific training to facilitate evolution/change.

o Consistency: The big one. Improvements come about from stringing together many months of consistent and valuable training load.

Underlying all these is the fact that the goal of our training is to prepare ourselves to race. As simple as this sounds, it is important to understand as many athletes fall into the trap of thinking of the goal of training is “hard work”. It is not as simple as that.

We only train in order to perform, hence, effective training is when we gain positive adaptations. If you have this as a bedrock, or foundation, of your training, then you can make smart decisions.

Now busy athletes need to consider how often and how much to train. A SISU Racing training week is always built around key or foundational, training sessions. These are the ‘do not miss’ sessions that provide the main specific training load of any given week.

Every athlete should place their emotional and physical emphasis on achieving these sessions to the best of their ability in any given week.
When each athlete maps their training week, they should look ahead to their personal, work and social calendar. Firstly, they schedule the key sessions within the training framework.

Remember, the lens should not be ‘How much training do I need to do?’ Instead, refine the thinking into ‘How much time do I truly have?’ Then add training to this. It is a subtle but a key shift in thinking.

We recommend athletes walk through the following process when determining their training availability.

o Question 1: Go through your weekly schedule and identify the slots of time you nearly always have to add in training. How much time is this? What time of the day? These are slots that are rarely disrupted by work, family, life etc.

o Question 2: Identify the time slots that you often can train or have to yourself but are more likely to be disrupted.

o Question 3: Identify any slots that are typically designated for ‘life’ activities, whether work meetings, commuting, family or whatever.

Once you have completed this, you now have a clearer picture of where to aim to integrate the KEY sessions of the week. Supporting sessions can be placed in the slots defined in question two.

Much of this depends on how busy (work, family, social) your week is, what your background is and how much fatigue you are carrying.

If you have a very busy week or are tired, then you may decide to scale back on the number of optional workouts. If you are fresh or have more time, you may include more workouts.

o You should now review and look for three more things:
o How much sleep will I typically get?
o Do these nights of sleep allow me to get 8 hours at least twice weekly?
o Do I have any additional ‘bumper’ time to simply rest, relax or meditate? 🙂

If you are restricted on the above three questions, you need massive awareness, and maybe a refinement of the plan. Ensure you avoid simply chasing the number of workouts you can cram in or rigidly sticking to a full quota of weekly workouts, no matter what. Instead, nail the key sessions then follow your life, time, energy and commitments to feed in those supporting workouts.

I would MUCH rather see 12 excellent hours of your training over 16 hours of up and down fatigue-ridden training!

To find out more about SISU Racing coaching plans and how we craft personalised plans that fit into your busy lifestyle, check out our coaching page.

Ergogenic Aids And Post Race Recovery Strategies

What exactly are ergogenic aids?

Briefly summarised they are in fact any means of enhancing Energy utilisation, Energy production, Energy control and Efficiency.

In short, they are meant to assist you in:

  • Allowing the body to recover faster from some form of stress it has been put through i.e. through training or racing.
    Improving your own personal performances both during training and more importantly on race days
  • Delaying the inevitable on-set of muscle fatigue that one will experience when you are pushing your limits
  • Reducing the muscle damage that comes from a physical exertion of swimming, biking and running hard or long



Increased Carbohydrate intake

Simply defined, Carbohydrates supply the body with glucose that is converted into energy to enhance and support the body’s functions during physical activity. It must also be said, you get good carbohydrates and you get not-so-good carbohydrates
GOOD = Vegetables/Legumes/Fruit/Whole Grains/Nuts/Seeds
NOT-SO-GOOD = refined carbs/sugar sweetened beverages/white bread and pasta/pastries

Increase Protein intake

Protein is vital to repair muscles damage (repairs the cells and muscle tissue) as well as synthesize hormone amongst others. In other words, the muscles NEED IT!
A normal healthy diet can supply the protein content needed to perform these functions whilst a protein supplement shake can be used as an added extra if you are busy with some seriously hard and time consuming training (Iron Distance Training for example)

Sources of good protein food types include fish/poultry/eggs/cheese/yoghurt and pork

Caution: Some people react differently to the intake of protein especially when they add additional protein supplements to their daily intakes when it’s not really needed. Bloating and increased weight can be the negatives associated with protein intake when using these products, so make sure it is working correctly for you. A well balanced normal daily diet intake generally should do the job.

Add a Daily Vitamin dose
Adding some vitamin intake in the form of A, B and C can help speed up recovery in some instances.

Note: there is only so much absorbed by your body. By jamming your body with an overload of vitamins will just lead to a very expensive urine dis-charge so spend your pennies wisely. In this case, more is not necessarily better.

Amino Acid Intake

Amino Acids will increase protein synthesis, prevent protein break-down and generally improve the recovery process. Point being if you can grab them, use them.

Types of Amino Acids = BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids that are comprised of leucine/isoleucine and valine). These are the ones you want to look out for when you go shopping at your nearest outlet.

Increased Caffeine Intake

There is a big reason we all love our coffee so much, no co-incidence here

Caffeine intake after a workout routine or race will definitely help speed up the recovery process. Add some food intake like a bagel for example, along with a cuppa and you are set on your road to recovery. It’s no wonder so much time is spent at the coffee bars re-fuelling. Not just a myth anymore, so go ahead and enjoy a cup or two or three.

Post-Race Recovery Strategies

We put so much effort into racing and performing well on the day that once we cross the line, we tend to forget the recovery process starts almost immediately. You have seen the TDF riders hop onto their turbo trainers almost as soon as they cross the finish-line. They are already thinking recovery and about the next day and beyond performance. You too could significantly improve your overall performance and recovery strategies by applying some of these basic common tips next time you finish a race or even a hard training session.

Start hydrating and replenishing the body with food and drink as soon as possible (within 15-30 minutes).

You may find it hard to immediately stomach the thought of eating, especially after a hard endurance effort. But, the sooner you can start, the better your body will re-act to absorbing what it is being supplied with and the faster the body repair and recovery process will be

Make sure you loosen down directly after you finish (stretch/do a short run/cycle etc.
This will minimise the impact of the muscles tightening and “stiffening” up

Light Massage Therapy

Most of the events these days have a massage service available. Make use of it and grab one of those tables before they are gone.

Ice Bath

This might seem a little impractical at some of the events but we can recommend this little secret that a top ITU PRO’s coach let us in on. “When he travels, he takes along a plastic dustbin and uses a duffle-bag to travel with by inserting the dust-bin into the duffle-bag and filling the bin with his clothes. When he gets to the race venue – he then uses the emptied dust-bin as his “ice-bath” instrument – very clever and works the bomb – why not try it!

Change into warm dry clothes immediately after the event

so as to ensure you don’t stand around in your wet tri apparel for hours. Keeping the body warm post-race is a massive advantage when one is trying to recover sufficiently after the hard race-days effort

Use a foam roller back at the hotel room or lodging

This will also aid the recovery process for those stiff sore muscles. A good night’s sleep goes hand in hand with some foam rolling. We know it’s hard to resist the post-race festivities but don’t expect to wake up next morning feeling as fresh as a daisy if you don’t get some much needed shut-eye the night after.

Add a Protein Shake to the mix

Just before you turn off the lights! This is an added little extra that can help mend those broken muscle fibres.

Put some thought into your own personal recovery strategies as mentioned above and we guarantee a much better post-race experience. Waking up the next morning might seem somewhat easier if you heed some of the advice given herein.

Nail Your Triathlon Goals in 2019 (By Setting the Right Ones)

Whether you dread or look forward to it, most athletes at least recognise the importance of setting goals.

But setting the right kind of goals, the ones that inspire action and positive change, can be tough.

1. Prioritise

We all want to have a better swim, bike, and run. But if you’ve been training for a while, you probably realise that prioritising is a must in order to continue to improve.

Instead of viewing it as a boring off-season, think of the winter as an exciting opportunity. You’ll never have the chance in May to put your run on autopilot while you bring up your bike, because too many races will interfere. Take advantage of this time period to improve your weaknesses.

2. Choose Performance Over Outcome

An example of a performance goal is to finish a run race with a time improvement instead of a certain placement. Keenan advises to pick your goal based on variables you can control as much as possible. For example: Don’t worry if the world champ in your age group shows up, focus on your own time rather than on your performance relative to theirs.

3. Work Backward

Start with your big goal for the season, then work backward to figure out what you should be doing between now and then. Keenan says to think of this as backward planning, or walking down a “set of stairs” with the bottom of the stairs representing your current fitness. This will help you determine goal checkpoints along the way. Smaller goals as you go will keep you accountable and the motivation high.

4. Be Specific

Not only does the goal, “improve swim form,” sound not fun, but it’s also really tough to measure. Choose an exciting goal with metrics to quantify your progress, like to improve your turnover by 10 percent.

5. Think In Terms of Big Payoff

By “big payoff” we mean getting the most you can out of your effort and time. For instance, if you’re new to cycling, you can probably make a lot of improvements with some focused training. Conversely if you’re a former competitive cyclist, then it probably makes more sense to focus on another sport.

In Summary:

  1. Keeping their goals to themselves. It’s important to let others know and ask for support to facilitate accountability, motivation, and helpful feedback.
  2. Trying to change too much too quickly. Don’t go “all-in” too fast and then risk getting overwhelmed or burned out.
  3. Lack of documentation. It’s not enough to think about a goal, it’s more effective to write it down, whether you use journaling or a tool on your phone.
  4. Setting unrealistic goals. You want your goal to be huge, but not impossible.
  5. Not putting in the work. Truly going after a long-term goal is about taking small actions on a daily basis to get slightly closer to the end result.

Perfect Your Gait

Combine speed work and technique training this winter and you will run faster and more efficiently, with fewer injuries.

Perhaps the biggest changes you’ll ever make as a runner will come from speed-work and improvements to your technique. These are the bedrocks of being a fast runner, but they take hard work and dedication. We’re here to help you fine-tune your gait so you expend less energy and avoid injury.

Plus we show you how to train at a variety of paces, so you’ll be fit and race ready for the triathlon season. Put these two things together and you’ll run like a demon this winter.

Your running style has a direct affect on how much energy you expend at a given speed. One way to improve your technique is to have your gait analysed by an expert with a video camera and a treadmill.

Research suggests that video feedback is an effective way of improving your gait, but it can take several video sessions to make a real difference.

Another method is visualisation or proprioceptive cue.

Brain Training For Runners.

To use these cues effectively you need to focus on them for hundreds or even thousands of consecutive strides on each run. So that means no more jogging along aimlessly, taking in the scenery and wondering what to have for dinner when you get home.

They will not work overnight either, because the movement patterns that influence your gait have been deeply ingrained over months and years of running. Also it takes a certain amount of staying power to realise the full benefits of this method.

With that in mind, here are five cues for you to try. You’ll get the best results if you use one at a time throughout the entire length of every run you do. You don’t need to master one before moving to the next, just pick a different cue for each run.

No matter how good your stride becomes, you’ll always benefit from using them regularly.

They’re also a great way of keeping your form sharp on race day, especially when you’re feeling fatigued.

Pulling the road

Imagine you’re running on an unmotorised treadmill. In order to keep running you need to pull the treadmill belt backwards with your feet. Visualise yourself doing the same thing with the road when you run outside.

Think about generating forward movement by pulling the road behind you with each foot to help you gain early thrust.

Falling forwards

Tilt your body slightly forwards as you run, but make sure you don’t bend at the waist. Tilt forwards from the ankles instead.

Experiment by over leaning to the point at which you feel like you might fall forwards. Then ease back to a point that feels comfortable and in control, but where gravity still seems to be pulling you forwards. This will help you avoid overstriding, because running with a slight forward tilt allows your feet to naturally land closer to your centre of gravity.

Bum squeezes

Just as your foot is about to make contact with the ground, contract the muscles in your buttock on that side of your body and keep it engaged throughout the ground contact phase of the stride. This will enable you to maintain greater stability in your hips, pelvis and lower spine and even your knees as you run.


Imagine you’re running beneath a ceiling that is just two inches above your head. To avoid smacking your head on the ceiling you’ll need to run in a scooting manner by actively minimising the up-anddown movement of running. Simply think about thrusting your body forwards instead of upwards while running.

This will help you to run with greater stability by reducing any vertical impact forces.

Knee Axle

Imagine there’s an axle positioned between your knees that pushes your knees half an inch farther apart then they would normally be when you run. This helps you engage the hip flexors and external hip rotators, preventing internal rotation of the thigh, a common cause of injuries.

What to Eat Before Morning Training

Training in the morning is the only way that many athletes can fit workouts into their day and therefore knowing what to eat and how to fuel your body is very important.

What you should eat will depend on the type of training you plan on doing.

Low Intensity Steady State

When you’re planning a relatively low intensity steady state session, you may be able to do it in the fasted state. Fasted training simply involves exercising without fuel (in the morning before any food consumption).

The research into fasted training has shown that exercising with low muscle glycogen may pose significant benefits to endurance athletes due to molecular adaptations that occur in the muscle cells. These adaptions mean that athletes may be able to ‘train’ their body into utilising fat oxidation for energy production and subsequently spare muscle glycogen.

This could play an important role in optimising endurance performance as the sparing of muscle glycogen will help to delay fatigue. This mechanism provides rationale for why athletes might want to try fasted training; however it must be noted that fasted training should only be carried out for exercise of a low intensity.

Muscle glycogen is still extremely important for high intensity exercise and therefore no strenuous session should be completed in a fasted state. Fasted sessions should be no longer than 90 minutes and done no more than 2-3 times a week.

If you find fasted training too difficult, try eating a breakfast high in protein such as an omelette before these morning sessions.
It may help to relieve the hunger and make you feel psychologically more prepared for your session. If this doesn’t work, don’t stress! Fasted training isn’t for everyone and you can still make the most performance gains from fed training.

After these sessions, make sure you recover properly in a decent recovery meal (a proper breakfast!) as soon as possible after you finish. A great breakfast might be crumpets with jam and peanut butter with some water for hydration.

High intensity interval training or intense endurance session

These sessions place huge physiological demands on the body and therefore should not be done in the fasted state. Fuelling your muscles properly and maximising muscle glycogen stores will allow you to work to a much higher intensity; something which is very important for training adaptation.

Therefore, whilst fasted training may provide some benefits, it is very important that you do hard or strenuous sessions in the fed state to mirror race day efforts and maximise training potential.

If you’re an athlete that exercises at a high intensity in the morning, getting up even earlier to take on some fuel can be challenging. Food can take a long time to digest and therefore exercising just after you have eaten may leave you experiencing GI issues.

If you are happy to get up earlier and can stomach real food, aim for a breakfast high in carbohydrates with some added protein. A great example would be porridge with a banana and nut butter.

After these prolonged or intense sessions, it is important that you have a recovery strategy in place to encourage training adaptation. Try to get some nutrients in as quickly as possible. A great way to do this is in the form of recovery shakes. These typically contain both carbohydrates for muscle glycogen replenishment and protein to contribute to muscle growth and maintenance.

These can be consumed immediately after exercise to kick-start the recovery process. Remember to follow this with nutrient dense food at your next meal.

This should again include carbohydrates and protein (along with some vitamins and minerals!). A great option would be a baked potato with tuna and leafy green vegetables.

Strength Training

If you’re doing an early morning strength training session, you will want to aim for a breakfast high in protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

This is very important as you will wake up after an overnight fast in which muscle protein synthesis is dramatically reduced and therefore food stimulus is needed. Some good examples of breakfasts include an omelette or high protein yogurt with almonds. If you feel you need a bit of carbohydrate as well, try adding something small like a banana.

After your strength training, it is again very important to refuel and recover properly. Aim to take on some carbohydrates and some protein as soon as you can. A great way to do this would be to use a Recovery Bar as its protein content is ideal for post training recovery.

It also contains some carbohydrates, but not in a high dose such a Recovery Shake and is therefore ideal for sessions which don’t place huge demands on muscle glycogen. Again make sure you follow this with a proper recovery meal.

This should contain high protein and some carbohydrates for optimal recovery. A good option would be boiled eggs with a slice of wholegrain toast along with plenty of water for hydration.

Straight Line Open Water Swim Tips

Lets start with the basics.


Breathing is such an important part of straight-line swimming and it’s also the number one thing that stops people from reaching their swimming potential. I always start with breathing when I’m coaching, whether the person in the water is a beginner or a time-chaser.

When I am at the pool I often see people sprinting 50 metres, then having to stop for about two minutes just to get their breath back. They’re not unfit, they just need to be more efficient when they breathe. The most important thing to remember is that it should feel really natural.

The problem usually happens because you’ve taken in such a huge lung full of oxygen that your natural instinct is to get rid of the same amount that you have taken in, which means your breathing starts spiking up and down erratically, and that just isn’t sustainable over any kind of distance. If you were going for a jog you wouldn’t run for a bit, then stop and gulp for air, then run again. You’d breathe as you were going along; make it a part of what you were doing. Swimming should be the same.

The key is to keep your breathing relaxed and consistent, and you’ll be amazed by how much easier you’ll find swimming.
The trick is to breathe in through your mouth when your head is to the side, and breathe out through your nose when your head is in the water. And that’s it. It doesn’t matter whether you only breathe on one side or on both (bilaterally); the most important thing is just to stick to a regular rhythm, and take in only as much air as you actually need.

Like most things, efficient breathing can take a little bit of getting used to, but once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll feel so much more relaxed.

Body position

This is the thing that we find has the biggest impact on the people we’re coaching. There’s nothing more rewarding for me and David than watching someone feel the difference that the right body position can make to their swimming. It’s absolutely mind-blowing

Just like with breathing, getting this right means going against a natural instinct in this case, wanting to look forwards at all times to see where you’re going. The issue with doing this in the water is that it turns your body into a see-saw. When your head goes up, your legs go down and this means you’re battling against much more drag.

The good news is It’s really easy to sort out. Get your head into the right position and the rest of your body will follow, allowing you to swim further and faster.

To do this, you’ll need to start thinking about where your eyes are looking. What you want and it’ll feel a little odd to start with, but it gets easier very quickly is to be staring directly down at the bottom of the pool. This will make your legs come up automatically behind you, turning your body into a straight line. When you’re nice and flat there’s minimal drag, which means you can swim so much more easily. There will be a sweet spot that feels correct for you but start with your eyes directly down.

Once you’ve got your head into the right position, you can start thinking about rotation. This is a full-body movement, where you rotate your hips and shoulders around your spine at the same time. It comes from your core; thinking about snapping your hip on both sides as you move will really help.

Rotating efficiently means you get an extra bit of reach with every stroke which in turn means you’re doing fewer strokes and expending less energy. Think of it as “free” (or lazy!) swimming you’re getting something for nothing. Another big advantage is that your arms are having to do a little less work, which reduces your risk of shoulder pain, or even injury. Good news all round.


Once you’ve nailed breathing and body position, you can move onto the final piece of the straight-line swimming puzzle: propulsion.

What exactly is propulsion?

Propulsion is just how you move yourself forwards through the water. Anyone who swims will be using it to an extent, of course but if you want to make the process really efficient you need to think less about your legs and more about your arms.

When people start swimming they often think all their power is coming from their legs, because that’s the bit of them that’s getting really tired. In fact, the reason their legs are having to work so hard is probably because their body position isn’t great. If your head is up and your legs are trailing behind you through the water, you’re going to be having to kick really hard to make yourself flat through the water.

When you’re swimming, it’s your arms that should be doing most of the work and if you’ve got your body position right, you’ll find you can automatically focus your attention on them. You want to make sure every ounce of energy is going into your progress through the water.

What you need to do is imagine you’re moving the water through the centre line of your body pull through from your fingertips and engage your lats (the muscles that run all the way down your back; there’s a reason swimmers tend to develop powerful shoulders!) by bending your elbows when your hand enters the water.

The last thing to remember is that you don’t have to think about it all at once! Work on one aspect of straight-line swimming and then, once you’re feeling really comfortable with it, start practising the next. You’ll be amazed by how quickly it all starts to come together.


Open Water Racing Tips

The Professional Triathlete does the sports for a living. The Age Grouper does it for the love. What can you as an age grouper learn from the Pro?

Don’t forget, they too started off in the amateur ranks and worked their way up to the elite level. They too needed guidance and had to learn from their predecessors. You can pick up some valuable ammo from the Pro’s when we go open water triathlon racing.

Position, Position, Position.

You can easily save up to 1 minute in your overall swim finish time simply by standing in the right place before the start. How is that possible you may ask?

How did to do it?

Stand in the right position before the start of the race.

How will position help you?

You get to swim with faster swimmers and more often than not, are virtually “pushed” from behind into a faster swim time. You also gain more self-confidence from swimming closer up front in the field, and that often delivers faster swim times. So, look out for a good starting position, it could shave minutes off your swim times

Warm-up before the plunge

You might notice that the pro’s often go through a rigorous swim warm-up routine before the start of any race they participate in. They need to be geared and ready to go when that gun goes off. Their heart rate will go from 70 bpm to 160bpm in less than 50m. Without a good warm-up routine, these pro’s will lack the firepower needed to swim hard from the start and by the time they find their rhythm, the race leaders will be long gone.

You never feel fantastically good when you first climb into a pool to start your swim training sets, do you? You need a couple of laps before you get into the groove and swim faster, right? The same rule applies to the races.

You cannot expect to swim fast if you dive into the water “cold”.

What you need to do is get in the water prior to the race start and swim for a few minutes. A couple of 20m sprints with some easy swimming in between should do the trick. We are talking maximum 5 minutes in the water before you get out and wait for the gun. You can certainly save at least 30 seconds plus by warming up adequately over an Olympic distance triathlon.

I do concede that at some events it may not be possible to get into the water and warm-up, either due to the water being extremely cold or due to the race organisers and logistics. You then need to take along a set of rubber cords and do some dry land swimming with the cords where you simulate the freestyle stroke and loosen up the arms and shoulder. Not the ideal, but certainly better than no warm-up at all.

Swim Straight

This sounds pretty self-explanatory. However, you would be amazed at how bad a triathletes navigational skills are when they plunge into the water. If you lack the skill to swim straight to the marker buoys, you could end up swimming as much as 200m further over a 1500m swim. That 200m “extra” swim distance can turn into at least a 4 minute plus add onto your finish time over the Olympic distance.

You need to be sure of the exact course yourself and not be content to rely on the athletes in front of you, hoping they will swim straight and you can just follow. Before the swim start, look for land markers on the route that you can use to navigate your way around the swim course. A good pair of goggles is also essential to ensure that your vision is not restricted and you can see the marker buoys easily enough. If your goggles do mist up or take in water during the swim, stop and take a few seconds to fix them, look up and make sure you are on the right “straight” line before continuing to swim on.


Yes it is legal to draft in the swim section of any triathlon. It does not produce the exact same benefits as drafting does say on a bicycle. But, it can certainly help you swim faster and save you energy during the race.

The idea is to find an athlete or pack of swimmers that are swimming slightly faster than you.

Then, hook in and try to swim off their pace.

The ideal position to draft off in the swim.

Swim either to the left or right of the swimmer in front of you.

Position your head around their knee/hip area. It does take some practice swimming so close to someone without actually hampering their stroke or yours. Second best spot to draft off would be to swim on someone’s feet. The only problem being the lack of vision as their kicking motion produces air bubbles which can make the swim extremely annoying and uncomfortable. Just off the feet and to the side of the swimmer in front of you is the better position to draft off with.

You will be amazed at how much easier it is to swim when the swimmer in front of you “toes” you around the swim course; It will make you much faster too. You often hear the war stories after the race of how someone” just missed” the swim pack in front of them. And, had they managed to get on the feet, how much faster their swim time would/could have been. They are not just talking big; Drafting in the swim can potentially save them and you both time and energy reserves at the next race stop.

Start fast! What?

This last trick relates directly to the trick of drafting off the swimmers in front of you. If you do not start fast, you often end up swimming with the slower swimmers and chasing for the entire swim. This is especially over the shorter distances of Sprint and Olympic triathlon. The problem with starting fast is that you need to train your body to be able to do it. Starting too fast for some will result in them “blowing” completely out in the water at the halfway point and limping home for their slowest swim times ever. You need to simulate a race start in training and open water swim practices.

“Fartlek” swim training

This is the best method of training your body to adapt to being able to start fast during a race. Then, settle down into a comfortable pace and rhythm (lowering your heart rate). After that, still being able to pick up the pace again near the end of the swim. Fartlek training requires you to swim fast, then slow, then fast again during training. These so-called mini speed intervals during some of your sets will help condition the body to adapt to the rigors of starting fast during the race and then swimming comfortably the rest of the way. If you can start fast and then remain comfortable for the rest of the swim, you will swim faster.

These 5 Open Water Swim tricks will go a long way toward helping you swim faster. They all seem pretty obvious. So, put them into practice and you will be sure to swim faster at the next race you do.

Workout Wednesday – 2 x Power Session

Raise your power capacity with this explosive, unconventional sprint workout

Neuromuscular power is arguably the area of cycling most overlooked by triathletes. How often have you heard, ‘I’m not doing sprints in my races, so why do them while I train?’ The reality is that every cyclist and triathlete should incorporate neuromuscular training to allow for improvements in more race-specific areas of their power profile.

Bike power is a function of leg speed (via cadence) and torque. Working these two areas separately can combine to produce improvements in your neuromuscular power. Hence where the name 2 x Power is derived from.

By improving the power you can generate for short durations (for example, 1-second to 30-second intervals), you have allowed for and provided space for secondary improvements in other aspects of your power profile (for example, 20-minute and 60-minute best power).

An athlete who never trains their top-end (sprints, max cadence builds, etc.) lowers his/her ceiling for improvements elsewhere.

2 x Prong Power incorporates standing starts to target max torque, and max cadence builds to target max leg speed. Since these intervals put plenty of stress on the actual bike itself, 2 x Power is recommended as an outdoor workout, however, it can be done on a trainer if need-be.


5 minutes easy spin (<55% of Functional Threshold Power, <3 Rate of Perceived Exertion)

Cadence Pyramid Warm-Up (All at 60-70% of FTP, 5 RPE)
1 minute @ 60rpm
1 minute @ 70rpm
1 minute @

1 minute @ 90rpm
1 minute @ 100rpm
1 minute @ 110rpm
1 minute @ 120rpm
1 minute @ 110rpm
1 minute @ 100rpm
1 minute @ 90rpm
1 minute @ 80rpm
1 minute @ 70rpm
1 minute @ 60rpm
1 minute easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)
5 seconds sprint “opener” (90% of All Out)
5 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)

Main Set

30 seconds Standing Start*
8 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)
30 seconds Max Cadence Build**
5 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)
30 seconds Standing Start*
8 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)
30 seconds Max Cadence Build**
5 minutes easy spin (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)


4 minutes easy spin cool down (<55% of FTP, <3 RPE)

* Standing Start – On a flat and safe stretch of road, shift down into a big gear (on standard gearing, this could be a 53/15), and roll to a near stop. You may have your hands in the drops, on the hoods, or on the bullhorns of a TT bike. Proceed into an all-out sprint attempting to get your cadence as high as possible. Stop after 30 seconds.

** Max Cadence Build – On a flat and safe stretch of road, shift into an easy gear (on standard gearing, this could be a 39/25). Begin a 30 second progressive cadence build, from 90rpm up, finishing at your absolute highest cadence at the 30 second mark. Stay seated for these efforts.