Training at Home

With many of us spending more time at home over the next few weeks, being able to keep up some training will be helpful for both physical and mental health. Is it possible to stay active when spending more time at home, and practicing social distancing? Yes! National Head Coach Michael Black offers some practical tips for training...

Michael Black_Coach Advice Twitter Graphic

a time to reflect

If, like me, you've been an athlete at whatever level for many years, this can be an unsettling time and one that questions your own identity as the normal routine you have which gives you so much confidence and strength is now under threat.

Being an athlete shouldn't define you and if it has then now is the perfect time to really take a look at WHY you do what you do. Is it for fitness, competition, to look good, for mental health, or a bit of all those things and more? Either way this down time allows you to reconnect with yourself and step back a little from the hard training grind we all put ourselves through and place so much importance on some of the more neglected areas of our training or our general well being.

1: Dont fight it - Accept that it may be a while before you get racing again but....there will be another race.

2: Challenge yourself - Adversity creates an opportunity to become stronger. 

3: STAY CALM.

4: Stress will play havoc with your system. Constantly being engaged through social networks like Facebook and Twitter looking for latest update will only make you feel more tired, stressed and anxious. 

5: Prioritise Sleep: Around 50% of athletes I speak with are 90% overtrained and lacking a regular and optimal sleep pattern. A recipe for underperforming and burnout. If you do nothing else during this period of downtime then prioritise gaining a consistent sleep and rest pattern. This may mean not doing as much training as you previously have. You will have lots of time to get back into your regular pattern of training with a healthier sleep pattern, increased energy and possibly a better understanding of what your body needs and can handle in terms of training load and what works for you, not what social media and others tell you. 

Practical Approach - Resources

Swimming:

The vast majority of swimming pools are closed and will remain closed for some time. So unless you have acclimatised yourself to swimming in open water in March/April or you have the luxury of a private pool, swim training is going to take a bit of a hit. Again like I said previously, stay calm and just accept it. CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLES. We can't control the fact that the pools are closed but we can control how it makes us feel and how we respond. If you are forced to take two weeks off swimming then yes, when you return you may feel sluggish and feel that you have lost all your swim fitness but this will return to normal after a couple of weeks back in the water. In addition to this, if you have worked on the weaknesses and dry land exercises (described below) then there is a good chance that some weaker aspects of your swim will have improved and allow you to become a more efficient swimmer in the future. 

Dry Land Exercises

There are so many resources available to us online, detailing a variety of dry land swim drills, S&C routines and exercises that will add to your current training plan. As I said before, if you are currently on a training plan that includes any form of dry land drills or S&C work then stick to this and adapt if you need to. Below are two of the videos I found that give a mix of swim specific resistance band exercises and body conditioning. If you have never done any of this type of work and you have sessions to replace don't fall into the trap of doing these exercises every day. For a beginner you should do these twice a week with at least 48 hours recovery in between. Do one video one day and the other, another. The Video 1 band exercises you can do 3 sets of the full routine.

Video 2 has a warm up and two routines - you can choose which one you do. If you do not have a pull up bar at home, you can leave the pull ups out.

video 1 - Resistance Bands exercises

VIdeo 2 - Core and S&C Exercises

Running:

At the minute, we can all get outside by ourselves and run. Discover new places to run, quiet trails, forest paths and undiscovered roads, the options are endless. Reassess and adapt.

Biking:

Similar to running, at the minute we can still get out on our bikes, and if that doesn't work most of us are very good friends with our turbo trainers given our climate. Used correctly a turbo trainer can be a huge asset to your overall training plan. Mix things up a little, if you have access to a mountain bike, gravel or cross bike then hit the trails and forests. It will be a nice break from the indoor trainer.

Loughrea Junior Triathlon

Training Sessions

If you are on a training plan at the minute then stick with it as best you can. Obviously, if you can't get a particular session done then speak with your personal coach, club coach or training buddies to replace it with something that still allows you to train. Don't feel that you need to dramatically change your training schedule because of the current situation. One difference at the minute is that there are no races on, but if we ask ourselves what really is a race? An opportunity for us to test our physical and mental strength over a particular discipline or distance. SIMPLE, don't overthink it. A lot of us are racers at heart and we love to push ourselves and see where our limits lie. 

Racing in its purest form involves us pushing our limits, so in reality we can do that in so many different ways. If you had a road race, bike race or off season race coming up in the next couple of weeks then keep that plan in place and work towards this as if it is still happening. Prepare as you would, taper, hydrate, rest, do the hard and easy sessions and approach the day like any other race. If it's a running race then if you can pick a similar route or distance and just go for it. Give it your all and see what you can do, after all you have trained for weeks and months, why waste the condition you are in. Granted you may not get the time you would if you had others around you pushing you but you still have implemented and completed that block of training. Then its time to recover and plan again. This will stop you thinking too far ahead at any one time and worrying that there are no races in the next month. Worry about the next two weeks and then go again for the next two weeks....and repeat. 

some sessions to suit your race plan

Depending on the type of race you had planned in the next few weeks, the below solo sessions may be useful as a replacement for you to do in your own time. Remember to follow government guidelines and to practice social distancing.

Half Marathon Race planned: 

  • 2x10km with 5mins recovery in between. Add the two times of your 10km together and add two minutes. This should give you a close prediction of what you could have done for the half marathon. 

10km Race Planned: 

  • You could just pick a nice route and go for it over 10km. If your training has gone well and you have prepared well in the lead up to the race date then you shouldn't be far away from achieving your target pace. 
  • 5x2km with 1min easy jog recovery. Add the time for the 5x2km reps together and add 90 secs.  This should give you a close prediction of what you could have done for the 10km. 

5km Race Planned:

  • This is a distance that you can just rock up and go for it. Experiment with paces. Now is the time to see if you can hold a faster pace than you would dare to do in a race. No pressure and you may just surprise yourself. 

Generic Duathlon 2020

Bike Race:

This is where Zwift and other online training platforms come into their own. Get yourself signed up and get racing people from all over the world. Set up a race amongst your training buddies and this will give you all the racing you will want. If your feeling really brave you could jump off the bike and head for a run practicing your transitions along the way. 

CONNECT

Remember, as triathletes we are pretty used to dealing with the ups and downs of training and racing. One minute you feel superhuman the next you feel you can't swim a length without standing up. Use your resilience and strength and put it into everyday life. Focus on the positives and do your bit for everyone, and when this all settles down (which it will) you can focus on another big block of hard training ready to race. 

It's fine to feel worried and anxious but remember we all have a fantastic triathlon family out there going through the same worries and concerns as you. Reach out, ask questions, post happy or silly videos, connect as best you can. 

Be the best you can be.....

Michael Black
National Head Coach

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Further Information on COVID-19 is available from the HSE website.

There is also advice from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland on its website.

This article was first published on 19 March 2020.
Please follow current Government and Health Authority guidelines when training.