How is Your Durability? Why understanding athlete durability is a key metric for Ironman Success

As endurance athletes, we know that getting enough volume into our training programme is critical in our preparation for an event, and we know that to get enough volume without becoming overreached and overtrained, we need to manage and regulate our training intensities effectively (4, 6). We might therefore plan and programme specific long-duration training sessions designed to generate low physiological stress within our programme (7). Ideally, we'll use physiological profiling numbers – specifically, knowledge of the power output, running speed, and heart rate at the first threshold or moderate-to-heavy intensity transition – to programme and regulate these sessions (5). For example, suppose we determine that our first threshold occurs at 240 W. In that case, we might cap our long, low-intensity weekend ride at, say ~230 W. We also use this number to help quantify things like training load and how much weekly volume was completed within a specific zone.

This is a...

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Lactate for Endurance Training: What is it?

Sooner or later, as an endurance athlete, you will come across a discussion of ‘lactate’, whether you are also an exercise physiologist or not. Blood lactate concentrations are routinely measured in endurance athletes, and so-called ‘lactate thresholds’ are used to inform training decisions. Some athletes and coaches even spot-test blood lactate concentrations during exercise to regulate intensity during training. And this is becoming more popular than ever – word on the street is in Kona this year, just about every athlete stopped to take lactate. Of course, this has been massively popularized by the Norwegian program's success, and rightly so! They are doing some amazing things!

However, I believe many people misunderstand what lactate is and isn’t and what blood lactate responses to exercise can and can’t tell you. So, in this blog, I will briefly summarise some of the fundamental physiology of lactate metabolism. Brace yourself for some...

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Chelsea Sodaro Wins the Ironman World Championships

Photo Korupt Vision

On Thursday, 6th October 2022, Chelsea Sodaro did something pretty special! She won the Ironman World Championships to become the first American woman to win since Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996. Chelsea and I believed that she would one day win this race (she certainly has all the goods), but for it to happen so soon was a shock for both of us. We talked about the top 3 being excellent, but a win is out of this world! Chelsea’s 8 hours 33 minutes finishing time was the second fastest time ever by a female at Kona. The competition was among the strongest assembled, with Lucy Charles-Barclay and Anne Haug in 2nd and 3rd position. Well done, Chelsea!

This has been one incredible journey, having taken on Chelsea initially when she was just 6 weeks pregnant. But some fundamental principles got Chelsea to that outstanding performance on race day. Of course, the training and data are a massive part of all this. Still, I also wanted to share some more global concepts...

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The Offseason: Enjoy your Downtime, and Maintain your Fitness.

Uncategorized Sep 16, 2022

Many athletes struggle with the period after a major event, or the final race of the season – known as the off-season. You’ve been so focused on your training for and nailing your event, and likely gotten into a routine of balancing your training programme around work and family. After the event, motivation can dwindle, and it can be tricky to figure out what it is you are trying to do with your training, and even if you should be training at all!

The purpose of the off-season, which is essential, is to physically and mentally freshen up whilst minimising the loss of those hard-earned adaptations you accrued in the build-up to the previous event. You can’t always just keep training; it is necessary to pull back, let any niggles clear, and reconnect with the other aspects of your life that training has dominated! Not taking an off-season leaves you at risk of physically or mentally burning out in the next programme.

In this blog, I will summarise my key...

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Right Fuel, Right Time – Carbohydrate Manipulation to Make Every Session Count!

One of the hot topics in endurance sports nutrition at the moment is ‘carbohydrate periodization’ (4, 6).

What is carbohydrate periodization?

Like training periodization, in which we manipulate our training programming to best achieve our training objectives, carbohydrate periodization is a nutrition strategy in which carbohydrate intake is manipulated in line with training demands and to meet the objectives of individual sessions. These objectives may be to maximise acute performance within the session, or to facilitate high-fat oxidation rates, for example. We call this the ‘Right Fuel, Right Time’ approach. The rationale for this approach is that adequate carbohydrates should be consumed to support the quality of training sessions but that we should avoid overconsuming carbohydrates on easier, less demanding days, as this may blunt the signals that lead to positive adaptive responses (3).

In this blog, I will briefly discuss some of the research on the...

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What influences fat metabolism during cycling? Our New Research

cycling fat metabolism Jul 15, 2022

As we have discussed at length in previous blogs, and in our courses, carbohydrates and fats provide the energy to fuel metabolism during prolonged, endurance exercise (3). The carbohydrate energy we have stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen is limited, and can become depleted to low concentrations during long-duration exercises like Ironman triathlon (1, 6). In contrast, our fat energy stores, whilst metabolised more slowly, are effectively limitless in the context of exercise. For example, given that 1 g of fat provides ~9.75 kcal of energy (4), it can be estimated that a lean 70-kg individual with 10% body fat has ~68,250 kcal of endogenous fat energy. Theoretically at least, this is enough energy to complete more than six full-distance Ironman triathlons (5).

Accordingly, exercise physiologists have conducted huge amounts of research into the factors that influence the rates at which we metabolise fats and carbohydrates during exercise. This research has been particularly...

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Sodium intake during endurance events: How precise should we be?

Discussion of electrolyte losses in sweat and the perceived need to supplement with sodium during competition is ubiquitous in endurance sport. Particularly triathletes. According to a recent survey, the vast majority of endurance athletes reported that they think they should be replace sweat sodium losses during racing (5). However, is it really something we need to worry about? In this blog, I will briefly describe the state of the evidence regarding sodium supplementation during endurance competition and outline why I think that ingestion of some sodium during competition is important, but also why I don’t think the majority of endurance athletes need to agonise over the details of their sodium supplementation regimen. If nothing else it’s going to reduce the number of decisions you have to make, so strap in!

Sodium losses in sweat

First things first, what is sodium? Sodium is an electrolyte found in the body and is crucial for many physiological functions. The...

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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 want ~80% or more of our training week to occur 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 tracking of...

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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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