Kona Gems

ironman kona mindset training Jun 14, 2022

Written November 2018

Since Kona, it’s been all R and R, and it’s been just amazing and much needed. It’s been an incredible few weeks and crossing that finish line on October 13th felt like standing on the moon. I’m keen to share some thoughts, data and experiences on my #roadtokona, and it’s been nice to have the time to reflect over the past week. What worked, what didn’t and what do I think were some of the critical principles that helped get a result I never thought was possible. This short blog post includes my top three “gems” that I believe had significant contributions. These aren't exclusive to my personal experiences preparing for Kona, but align also to observations I’ve had when working with numerous world and Olympic champions.

1. FOCUS ON THE PROCESS. I don’t believe in the word “sacrifice”. Everything we do is a choice in life, and of course, training is no different. I loved (and still love)...

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Using Lactate to Prescribe Exercise Intensity: What's the Big Deal?

Uncategorized May 24, 2022

If you’ve been partaking in endurance training for any length of time, you will know that regulating the intensity of training is one of the fundamental components of good preparation. Sometimes we want to perform training at a high intensity in order to drive up stress-related adaptive pathways (2), but, most of the time, we want to keep our intensity low, such that we can accumulate large overall training volumes and avoid becoming non-functionally overreached. As we have discussed before, as long-distance triathletes we may well want ~80% or more of our training week to take place at low physiological intensities below the lactate threshold (7).

To properly execute a specific training session objective – whether that be a low stress, two-hour bike ride, or threshold run reps – we need to regulate our power outputs or speeds, such that we are physiologically in the right spot and achieving the desired result. Most commonly, athletes will do this using the...

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Carbohydrate Nutrition: An update on hydrogels and in-race carbohydrate dosing

We discussed the science of carbohydrate ‘hydrogels’ in a previous blog. Carbohydrate hydrogels are regular carbohydrate-containing sports drinks, with pectin and sodium alginate added. Pectin and sodium alginate have little effect until the drink reaches the high acidity of the stomach, where it forms a gel-like mixture. The gel-like mixture allows for a faster pass through the stomach into the intestine – what is called ‘gastric emptying’ – and speeds the rate at which the ingested carbohydrate is available for absorption across the intestine and, theoretically, utilisation as a fuel source by the working muscles.

When I wrote the blog in 2020, a handful of studies looking at the gastrointestinal and metabolic effects of carbohydrate hydrogels had been published. My conclusion at that point was that hydrogels might provide an effective means of accelerating gastric emptying, although the research did not demonstrate positive effects on exogenous...

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Best practice for triathlon coaches: Avoiding overtraining

By Dr Dan Plews

Endurance athletes have to manage the stress generated through training with the recovery required to absorb that stress and turn it into positive adaptations. One of the major determinants of the outcome of a training intervention is how successfully stress and recovery are balanced; too little stress and too much recovery could lead to undertraining and the failure to realise potential; too much stress and too little recovery could lead to overtraining, excessive fatigue, and impaired performance. In this blog, we are going to focus on the latter – overtraining – what it is and how to avoid it.

The overtraining continuum

‘Overtraining’ is one of the many ubiquitous and inconsistently defined terms in endurance sport, much like ‘threshold’, and the misuse of the term creates confusion. Oftentimes, when athletes and coaches say that they are overtrained, they are really overreached. I like to refer back to a classic review paper by...

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Endure IQ's Hierarchy of Long-Distance Triathlon Needs

Uncategorized Mar 02, 2022

My long-distance triathlon training philosophy is grounded in the 'Hierarchy of Long-distance Triathlon Training Needs', a series of scientifically-supported components of a well-designed training programme. The Hierarchy is adapted from my colleague Prof. Stephen Seiler's 'Hierarchy of Endurance Training Needs', which was itself adapted from Maslow's famous 'Hierarchy of needs. This provides a firm basis for both our 1:1 and Endure IQ Training Squad athletes. It’s a method that works, tried and tested! 

You can see my 'Hierarchy of Long-distance Triathlon Training Needs' below, which is from the Modules and content of our course on Training Programme Fundamentals, LDT102. This is for coaches and athletes who want to take their understanding of training programming to the next level. This blog will provide a brief background on the Hierarchy and introduce the pyramid's supporting features. Whilst these supporting structures aren't necessarily the fundamental training...

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The 2022 World Ironman Triathlon Championship in St George Utah: What happens when racing at modest altitude?

In this blog, I am going to discuss a topic that has always been of interest to exercise physiologists and those involved in endurance sport: altitude. As I’m sure you are aware, altitude has the potential for profound effects on endurance sport performance. This is certainly an area of interest with the Ironman World Championships this year being held in Utah; with many of my professional and Endure IQ Training Squad athletes competing. Utah sits at a modest altitude of ~1000 m, but is this enough to have an effect on our performance? And is any specific preparation required?

I will do my best to break down the basics of altitude for you, although I should acknowledge that altitude is such a big topic within our field that I cannot possibly include everything in one blog, but let’s give it a go! :).

 A physiological look at altitude

Okay, so first, why – physiologically speaking – is altitude so important? At sea level, the atmospheric...

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The Role of Myofascial Slings in Triathlon: Part 2 – Training the Sling System

by Adam Storey, PhD

In the last post, an overview of the myofascial sling system which is comprised of skeletal muscles, fascia, and ligaments was presented. The myofascial slings work in harmony to create strength and stability during movement which reinforces the concept that we need to train movement patterns as opposed to individual muscles.

In Part 2 of this series, the rotational power producing serape effect will be introduced and various exercises that target the myofascial sling system will be discussed.

The Serape Effect:

The synergistic stretch and activation of various tissues across the body to transmit force during rotational-type activities (e.g., running, throwing, kicking, and swimming) is also referred to as the serape effect (Juan C Santana, McGill, & Brown, 2015).

The term “serape effect” is derived from the orientation of the associated muscle groups which are likened to a traditional Mexican serape that is draped over...

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Jan Van Berkel - The Fat Adapted Healthy Athlete: Visceral Fat and It's Relationship to Health and Performance

Blog revisited - Originally written and published in 2017.
 
High levels of visceral fat, meaning the fat we carry around our organs, is a well-known marker of health decay. Jan Van Berkel, coached by Dan Plews, experienced substantial reductions in visceral fat (339 g to 166 g) after making a few key changes in behaviour. These adjustments coincided with large improvements in both health and performance, and just last week recorded a personal best time in the South African Ironman (5th professional). Carry on reading and learn how he achieved this, and what it means to become a “fat-adapted, healthy athlete".
 
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The first major Ironman of the season for Plews and Prof athletes turned out to be a good one at Ironman South Africa (IMSA). With 4th and 5th places, and two personal best times from Kyle Buckingham and Jan Van Berkel (JVB). Both athletes had stellar performances and were thrilled with their result.
 
I (Plews) have...
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Intermittent fasting, calorie restriction, and weight loss: Insights from recent data

At this time of year, many of us set ourselves resolutions to lose weight. This might be to boost our power-to-weight and therefore sharpen our performance, to stave off middle age’s creeping effects on the scales, or just to slim down after a little hard-earned festive overindulgence. The science of weight loss is an amazingly noisy field, and it is clear that there are a number of methods people have successfully used to drop pounds. In this blog, we cannot possibly cover the entirety of the science on how best to chip away at excess body fat mass. What we will cover, though, is a recent and excellent study published by researchers from the University of Bath in the UK that examined the effects of intermittent fasting on weight loss and body composition. Specifically, in the study the researchers sought to quantify the effects of intermittent fasting on weight loss and body composition that are independent of effects on energy balance – i.e. does intermittent fasting...

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New Study: The Cellular Energy Sensor, AMPK - Switching it on for Training Adaptation

by Dr Dan Plews

As we have discussed in several previous blogs, and in our courses, adaptations to endurance training are produced through activation of cellular signalling pathways in response to individual training sessions, with these cellular signalling pathways activated through detection of the physiological stresses generated through exercise. In this blog, we are going to focus on one of the most well-known proteins in the adaptive signalling cascade, the cellular energy sensor AMPK.

AMPK, or to give its full name, 5’adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, is an important protein in the detection of the cellular energy stresses generated during endurance exercise (1). Specifically, AMPK within the muscle is activated by the metabolic stresses generated by exercise, and subsequently activates signalling pathways associated with endurance training adaptation (2). This pathway makes a lot of sense; if our muscle is stressed by exercise, we detect it and then...

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