The Missing Links
With worldwide fitness competitions such as Hyrox becoming increasingly popular and the demand for triathlons and Ironmans higher than ever, we are seeing more and more members come to us seeking training advice.
To help you prepare, Mark Roper shares his top tips to optimise your training for these endurance events.
Find Your Weak Links
The easiest way to do this is to find a fitness professional who can correctly assess you to identify structural weaknesses. With clients, I aim to determine the two main weak links in the body and design a programme to address these issues. Common weaknesses in endurance-based athletes tend to be poor posterior chain strength (hamstrings, glutes, lower and upper back), which can increase the likelihood of injuries, particularly in the knee and hip regions. Once these are corrected, performance levels will undoubtedly increase.
Fine Tune Your Nutrition
Nutrition is a highly individual matter; the calorie and macronutrient needs for one person can differ greatly from another based on factors such as weight, height, body fat percentage, and activity levels. Understanding what works specifically for you can mean the difference between achieving a personal best and experiencing a physical breakdown. Ensure you are consuming quality, whole-food-based nutrition with a balance of protein, carbs, and fats as much as possible, rather than solely relying on supplements such as gels for fuel. Aim to have your body fat levels accurately measured, so you can calculate your specific nutritional and hydration requirements.
There isn’t a sport in the world in which your athletic performance wouldn’t benefit from an increase in strength levels. Master your technique and enhance your performance in all major compound lifts, such as squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses, and your event times will significantly improve. Greater strength will enable you to run more efficiently, push a higher wattage on the bike, and improve your power in the water, all while decreasing your risk of injury.
Train Through The Different Energy Systems
I often find that clients aiming to compete in endurance-based events tend to focus solely on low-intensity, zone 2 (heart rate) based training. While this type of training is crucial for longer-distance events like Ironman, it’s still important to allocate some time to lactate threshold training (increasing exercise intensity) and developing all-out power. This type of work is invaluable when you need to accelerate to overtake, power up a hill, or execute a sprint finish. Developing your lactic acid tolerance significantly contributes to both aerobic power levels and maximum wattage output.
Test Your Lactic Threshold
Regardless of the endurance event you’re preparing for, I strongly recommend testing your lactic threshold. This heart rate zone can be sustained for a period without delving too deep into the red zone where lactic acid production is excessive, leading to performance deterioration. A simple way to do this is by performing a sustained 20-minute effort at maximum speed after a 15-minute warm-up, utilizing your chosen exercise activity (running, cycling, and rowing are excellent options). Ensure you’re wearing a heart rate monitor around your chest for accurate measurements. After completing the exercise, analyze the data from the monitor to determine your average heart rate throughout the duration of the 20-minute exercise. This becomes your newly established lactic threshold, allowing you to design more effective aerobic and anaerobic training days, ultimately enhancing your performance at a higher level.
Written by Mark Roper, Head of Training at COACH London