Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tri Talk Tuesday - Mad Skillz

Wohoo! Two Tri Talk Tuesday articles in a row? I'm on fire! Joining Courtney and Cynthia once again for this week's discussion on Skill Development.

This is this is a hard one for me given my fairly newcomer  (3 years and counting) status in the triathlon world and the fact that I, myself, am still in the development stages of the game. I guess that stage never really comes to an end, does it? We've all got things to improve on, especially if we strive to be our best. So in light of trying to sound like an expert (which I am not in any way shape or form) and in order to keep it short and sweet,  I figured I would share my favorite drill that I've incorporated into each discipline when focusing specifically on skill development.

The Swim

Stroke Counting - It's as simple as it sounds. The practice of counting the amount of strokes it takes for you to go from one end of the pool to the next. Adding this drill into your weekly workouts is a great step towards increasing your SPD (Stroke Per Distance). Keeping track of the number of strokes you take per lap will force you to start focusing on lengthening your stroke while adding speed and distance. And isn't that what we all want? The ability to travel further and faster using the least amount of energy? Heck, we still have a bike and run to stumble through! :)

"Hell, I'm just trying to make it from one end to the next without drowning! Who the heck has room in their head to worry about counting your strokes?!", you say.

Haha - I totally get it and understand that this might be a little too much for some to think about. But I'm a firm believer that this is a great drill for weak and strong swimmers alike. I've been doing this throughout my swimming career and am still trying to get my counts down.

So what next? Below is a great article from Active.com on exactly how to find your target stroke count:

Finding Your Target Stroke Count

The goal should be to bring down your average stroke count per length. Great swimmers like Alexander Popov or Ian Thorpe may be able to scoot through the water at record speed while taking 30 strokes per length (50 meters), but this low stroke count does not have to be your golden number for improving your stroke.
First, determine what your range is. Try to swim most of the time at the low end of your range or below your lowest stroke count. Don't worry about speed at first- you can influence this later, perhaps as you begin to learn what your "ideal" stroke count is.
Here is an example of a set that can help lengthen your stroke, as well as build endurance:
  • Do a set with yard distances of 50+100+150+200+200+150+100+50
  • Take 10 to 30 seconds between swims
  • Count your strokes each length on the way up
  • Try to maintain or lower your stroke count on the way down while keeping the same pace

Just another tool to keep handy in your training box. Try it out once and see what you come up with. You'll be surprised with how focusing on lowering your stroke count can actually help to improve your overall form!

The Bike

Hill Repeats - So we all know that one of the most important sections of a triathlon and where your end results are closely tied with, is how well you do on the bike. If you want to have more energy on the run and better your overall finish times, you definitely need to focus on your cycling skills. That being said, one of the best ways (IMO) to increase speed is strength training. Which in cycle talk = hill training.  Ugh! No, no hills! Like the picture above says, "It doesn't get easier, you just get faster!". Again...isn't that the whole idea?

Here's an easy session to implement into your mid-week training plan. Remember, hill repeats focus on building strength so don't incorporate long distances. Treat this day like you would your track workouts for the run.
  1. Warm up for about 15-20 mins at a high cadence (low effort) of 90 - 100 rpms.
  2. Find a hill on a low trafficked road with 7-10% grade that will take you at least 1 -2 minutes to get to the top.
  3. Start at the bottom in a low gear that will be difficult to sustain all the way to the top.
  4. Stay seated and start climbing HARD and hold that effort all the way to the top.
  5. Once at the top roll back down and begin again immediate as you hit the bottom.
  6. Do as many planned reps as you have then cool down for about 15-20 mins.
Start with 4 reps and then build onto that. Oh, and make sure that the following day is a rest day - your legs will thank you not only for the down time but for those faster bike splits as well!

The Run

Trail Runs - What the what? Seriously. I'm lucky enough to have a short 2 miler right outside my house which I utilize at least once a week. It's so great to have a break from my usual paved route and the stinking dreadmill. Here are a few of the benefits you will experience when incorporating trail runs into your training:

  • Softer surface - so this doesn't necessarily fall into the "development" category but it does provide a huge stress relief on your joints that normally get a pretty bad pounding. As a result it helps to decrease your risk for injury. Wohoo!
  • It slows you down - How many of you out there really take it easy on your scheduled "easy" days? Hands? Yeah, me neither. Enter my old friend, Injury! Michael Spence, 2009 US 10k trail running champion and an 8:30 steeplechaser says, " On roads I tend to be very conscious of my pacing and sometimes push harder than I should. The hills and turns of the trail force me to focus more on how my body feels and less on my watch." Enough said.
  • Focus - as trail running requires intense focus, it helps to keep your mind fresh and energized. A nice break from your usual paved route that you can basically run bored and blind folded.
  • Activates and strengthens other muscle groups in your legs and core that are otherwise ignored out on the road. Utilizing these muscles more will give your larger, more overworked muscles groups a chance to breath and ultimately reduce the chance of injury.
  • Nature - get out there and breath some fresh air! Not only is it good for your lungs but your mind and spirit with thank you as well.
Did you notice a common theme here? 'REDUCES YOUR CHANCE FOR INJURY' That right there is enough to get me out on some trails.

So there you have it folks - just a few of my favorite drills that you might think about incorporating into your own training. If not one of the above, hopefully you're able to find something that proves beneficial for you! Skill development is key - If we're not growing we're dying. (ouch, that sounds a little harsh. True but harsh.)

~ Cheers, Rebecca

What are some of your favorite drills?

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