Women’s bodies fuel differently from men’s. We rely on blood glucose first then fatty acids so not our stored muscle & liver supply & also the different phases of the menstrual cycle will have an effect because certain phases influence our ability to access & replace liver & muscle glycogen!
The female body doesn’t respond the same way when we deliberately try to increase our glycogen stores days ahead of a race.
When studies were done on well-fuelled women & then carb loading there was an increase of 17% of muscle glycogen compared to 23% for men.
But the problem really lies with women under fuelling generally! They just don’t eat enough to fuel the amount of exercise they are doing! Women tend to do more fad diets & constantly try to reduce their calories to lose weight & this does not help their performance or help them lose weight! It is important to eat enough & eat enough protein & carbohydrates before, during and AFTER training or competing! As well as throughout the day rather than trying to cram it all in the day before!
As females, you will also need to increase your carbohydrate & protein intake during the Luteal phase of your cycle (high hormone phase) because your body is using more blood glucose to build the lining of your womb and so increasing your carbs gives you more availability for exercise. And during high progesterone hormone puts females into a catabolic state (muscle breakdown) due to the breakdown of protein to also build your uterine lining so increasing protein will mitigate those effects & maintain your muscle mass!
For Men, carb loading can be effective & can improve their performance at lactate threshold by about 45%! Hope this has helped verify the original question! A lot of past research was only ever done on men or women in their follicular phase (low hormone) so it’s only recently that new studies are being done on women in all their hormonal phases and we still have a long way to go but at least it is happening now!
Some of this story you have probably heard before but I’m going to tell it with a different mindset.
My journey into the fitness world started when I was at school, I loved sport and was in all the teams, I wasn’t the best but I was good enough to get into the teams. The particular sports I was really good at was badminton and trampolining. This love of sport continued into adulthood and at 21 I did my exercise to music course to become an aerobics instructor and then travelled to Australia for a year, where I taught some classes. On my return I decided to set up my own classes (as I had no job and no idea what I wanted to do) in step and aerobics, I got a little ford van to transport my steps to the venues and it was great fun, a lot of hard work advertising it and some heartache along the way but I loved it. This escalated to doing my personal training courses and where my love of weight training came from. I learnt olympic lifts, free weights and resistance machines but what I really learnt was how to weight train properly and I loved it and spent the next 20 years training most days. Until the age of 35 when I decided to try a triathlon……
Randomly, a client of mine was moving to Australia and left me her bike. So I thought why not try a triathlon. I had a couple of sports therapy clients who were triathletes and loved listening to their stories. I wanted to learn to swim properly as I didn’t even know you breathed out into the water (that story has definitely been told in another blog of mine), so this was the start of my love of triathlon, as I got pretty hooked on it from the start. I worked my way through the different distances as I wanted to develop rather than just dive into the long distance stuff (to be honest, I never thought I’d ever be that stupid as to do an ironman!) but that was where I ended up, in 2010 getting online as soon as Ironman Austria was about to open to book on, as they sell out fast! But I got in……
Then devastation…….. I decided to use my partner at the time’s private health to see what was wrong with my hip, as it had been niggling for years, all the time I was doing triathlon, it had started before triathlon, in my early 30’s with random giving way, so I just thought it was muscular. When he gave me the news that I had osteoarthritis in my right hip, that I basically had the hip of a 60 year old and I was only 39! That he could do nothing to help me and to retire from triathlon, well I was devastated! Triathlon was the love of my life! It was what made me so happy! I was distraught and I went into what I call the House Of Pain but it’s actually called The House Of Change!
I’d been in the contentment room when I got my blow that sent me going backwards and forwards from denial to confusion, I went into a depression of anger (as anger is my default), I destroyed my relationship (which to be fair wasn’t right anyway). I saw two other hip specialists and after an MRI and more bad news I took the advice of the final specialist, which was to carry on doing what I was doing until I couldn’t do it anymore. So I stepped out of the confusion room and into the renewal room with the mindset to get on with my life, I had an Ironman to do!!!
So that is what I did, I trained for my Ironman, doing minimal running to keep the hip under control and I went to Austria and I completed my first Ironman and I LOVED IT! So much I booked another one the following year which I managed to knock off 1 hour! I did do a couple of 70.3’s in Mallorca the following 2 years but my hip didn’t really get back to where it was pre Ironman’s and so I made the decision to retire from triathlon and train to become a triathlon coach. I still loved the sport and thought this was the best way to give back all my motivation, knowledge and enthusiasm for triathlon and still be involved in the sport. So in 2014 I became a BTA Level 2 Triathlon Coach and started working as a coach for TRI2O Triathlon Club with Clive Alderson, who unbeknown to him, was like a mentor to me. I learnt a lot from working a long side him on a Friday morning, as these courses only start you on the journey, you need to work a long side an experienced coach to really become a good coach. My next step in the journey was doing my BTA Level 2 Diploma course to be able to coach 1:1, again this highlighted to me how much I didn’t know and sent me onto the path of increasing my knowledge with loads and loads of reading and the more I learnt the better I was becoming and the more confident I felt and the more I was loving coaching by getting other athletes to achieve their goals. But I wanted more……….
Now I am on my BTA Level 3 High Performing Coaching Course and a whole new personal journey and a whole new way of coaching and a whole lot more book reading!!!!! It is this journey that has made me look back over my life and look at the hard times more positively. If I hadn’t of got the arthritis I might never of become a triathlon coach, a job I really love doing and am passionate about becoming the best coach I can be! I’m learning to look at the bad things life throws at you as a learning experience rather than get upset by them as how does being upset help, it doesn’t! Learn and move forwards! Everything I am learning and changing within myself is moving me further forwards to being a more high performing person (and I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally) and this is making me a more high performing coach.
I have been through a lot of pain, arthritis is very painful, lots of sleepless nights, more sleepless than slept, lots of private tears and lots of frustrations but I am still biking, swimming, I took up mountain biking and climbing a few years back, I cycled Lands End to John O’Groats and climbed the 3 peaks on the way totally unsupported and I was in agony every time I got off that bike but I was on it again the next day with a smile on my face. If one thing I have learnt from looking back over all this is how resilient I am, how determined to not let anything stop me doing the things I love doing and if this story can help you think more positively when things are not going well, to learn something from it, making it more positive then I am happy it has helped you because this is my intention!
The Off-season can be a difficult time for triathletes, because it is a time to rest, refresh, plan and prepare for the next season and it is the first two that triathletes have the most problem with – REST & REFRESH!
Rest is easier said than done with most triathletes but is really important for the repair of muscles and joints. It is during this time that the body repairs and adapts stronger to the training stress that has been put on it. Rest is not just for the Off-season, it should be apart of all training. If you push yourself hard and then rest you will gain in performance ability but if you push hard with no rest you may see a decline as you will be unable to work to your full potential during your hard workouts due to fatigue. Use the offseason to really focus on getting enough rest, especially if you have any niggling minor injuries, this is the time to give them time to properly heal. Adding in some dedicated foam rolling, mobility and flexibility can help accelerate the recovery process.
The Off-season is also a good time to mix things up with some cross training. Triathletes spend most of their time working in one plane (forwards), never working multidirectional. Working multidirectional will strengthen the body in all the different planes of movement making you stronger and at less risk of injury. Try things like indoor wall climbing, kettlebell workouts, mountain biking but challenge yourself to some singletrack where you can learn new skills of riding berms, this is a great way to learn to handle and corner your bike better, but do start with the green or blue trails first then move on to red once you feel confident and your skills have progressed. If you are already a confident mountain biker, how about some cyclecross, this is a great sport to do through the winter, but be warned, it is not an easy Z2 type workout, you’ll be hitting those threshold heart rates so make sure you allow recovery afterwards. Another great session to add during the Off-season is weight training, this can be done using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands or bodyweight. Really this should be continued during the triathlon season as well in a maintenance type session. Strength training is more important than triathletes give it credit for as it really helps prevent injuries as well as providing muscle strength, power, functionality, mobility, balance and a strong core, to name a few of the benefits. Our strength is declining from the age of 30 so if you are not training it, you are losing it.
Functional strength is becoming more popular, this is using multiple muscles to do an exercise, think forward lunge with upper body twist, squat with overhead press, when we run, we are not just using our lower body, our upper body is working to help propel you forwards, so training more functionally and specifically to your sport, will have a really good crossover effect.
The Off-season is also a great time to start setting some goals for the upcoming season. This is great for creating motivation. Use your last season to reflect on how races went, how your training went and what you can improve, whether it is working to improve your swim, be more consistent with your training, sort out niggling injuries. Making these improvements can become part of your next season’s goals, but set objectives, like to improve your swim to maybe join a local technique coached session, triathlon club session or a masters swim group. To have consistent training, plan it into your diary each week as part of your day. To sort out niggling injuries either book in regular massages or diary in regular foam rolling/flexibility and add a strength workouts into your week, whether this is by joining a gym or local kettlebell class or doing the workouts from home, it is worth getting into a routine.
The other goal setting is your race calendar, looking at what races you would like to do in the next season but do also factor in race dates with any other commitments like work, holidays etc as you don’t want an important phase of your training to fall during a holiday. Also when doing more than one A race, is to allow enough time between them to be able to recover and build again.
Once you have rested and refreshed with some cross training the time then starts for some periodised training. Base training is the start of this and involves low intensity but consistent training that allows the body to build a cardiovascular and muscular fitness base prior to adding intensity and distance. Base training is focussed on swim, bike and run at low intensities it also includes strength training, mobility and flexibility as well. Getting into a routine of structured workouts during the base phase really helps mentally to carry on when training gets harder and more race specific through the build phases. This is also a really good time to learn more about using heart rate/RPE and even power (if you have a power meter) during your training, get to grips with the Z2 low intensity style workouts as these seem hard to start with but stick with it as they really do pay off in the end – we have to go slower to get faster and at the end of the process you will be swimming, biking and running faster at a lower heart rate.
What to do if you don’t know how to periodise your training?
There are a couple of options for this:
Find a coach: using a coach is probably the best way to help with your training as they will tailor your training to your lifestyle, specific goals and strengths and weaknesses. They know how to structure and progress your training, make the training specific to the distance of your A races, the profile of your A races and your goals, making sure you peak at the right time so you are on form and ready to race on race day. They can also help with things like nutrition, injury prevention, mental strength, motivation, transition strategies, race strategies and a lot more. They are someone you can talk through any worries or questions you might have.
Online training plans: if a coach is something you can’t afford then there are lots of generic training plans online that are not too expensive. These will not be specific to your strength and weaknesses but you can get them specific to your race distance and fitness level and they are progressive plans.
CHECK YOUR GEAR
Another good thing to do during the Off-season is checking your gear. You might have had annoying creaks/squeaks with your bike, this is a good time to get them sorted out before the bike becomes heavily used outside again. Getting some good winter puncture resistant tyres on for the winter cycling or if intend to do all your offseason cycling on the turbo then getting a proper turbo tyre or having a new chain and cassette ready for the new season (if using a direct drive turbo) and giving your bike a good clean before it’s mounted on the turbo for the offseason.
In conclusion, use the offseason to recover, try different sports/exercise types and prepare for the next season.
I see in my line of work athletes not giving long distance races the respect they deserve. Whether it is a marathon, big swim, long bike challenge or long distance triathlon, I see athletes suddenly panicking a couple of weeks before their race, because they have not done the training and then doing a long swim, bike or run without any build up to it. The stress and fatigue this places on the body is enormous and causes the body to take much longer to recover than it would if distance and volume had been progressed gradually. Then there is the risk of injury, especially with running, as due to it being weight bearing, it is so much harder on the body.
These long distance races should be done following a structured progressive training plan, building the distance up each week so the body can adapt gradually and recover quicker. These plans should also include recovery days/weeks and/or sessions as it is during the recovery that the body can adapt and get stronger. Oh and lets not forget ‘specific’, for example, if triathlon then brick sessions, these should include not just bike to run but also swim to bike and all 3 in a smaller distance ratio. These are great for practicing race day nutrition as this can make or break a race! Individual long distance races also need nutrition practice, think your long runs, swims, or bike (depending on your discipline race) to practice your nutrition strategy, as any race over 90mins needs glycogen replaced as our bodies can only store that amount of glycogen which is what we use for energy along with fats (they work together).
Your long distance sessions should be built up to as close to the distance of the race as you can (about 80%) to prepare your body with the strength and endurance it needs for race day. If only doing half the distance your body will not be prepared fully! Remember the saying ‘Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail!’
So let’s change that saying to ‘Prepare Well, Race Well’
Let’s get to that finish line thinking you prepared well, raced the best you could and gave it the respect it deserved!!
The question coaches get asked, why am I not getting fitter or faster? There are a few reasons for this and I ask these questions:
How may sessions for each discipline are you doing a week?
Are you consistently training every week?
Are you doing too much training?
I am going to start with number 2 – consistency! This is the most important aspect for improving fitness, training consistently every week. If you are constantly missing training sessions week on week or training one week then nothing the next week or very little, you will not improve, in fact you will lose fitness, rapidly! If you use Training Peaks, look at your CTL figure (fitness) and how quickly it decreases on the weeks with a lot of red sessions (sessions not done).
Now to number 1, if you are only doing one or two sessions a week in a discipline you will only maintain your fitness in that discipline (unless you are new to exercise or the specific sport). You need to do three or more per discipline to improve. This can be done a number of ways: if you have more time to train then adding an extra one or two sessions in that discipline a week should help it improve (as long as you are not doing too much to be too fatigued). If you are short of time then you can reduce one or both of the other disciplines to one or two sessions a week, for a month or two, to maintain and add extra sessions (three or more) in the one you want to improve, then once it has improved you can drop it to maintenance (one to two sessions) and add a session in the other discipline that you want to work on to bring it up to three or more a week.
We also need to progress fitness each week to improve. If you do the same thing every week you will just maintain your fitness. The body needs to be stressed so that it can repair stronger, if it is not stressed then it has no need to repair stronger as it will already be strong enough to cope with the demand of exercise you are doing. But doing too much high intensity sessions or junk miles can cause too much fatigue & cause the body to break down, causing overtraining, this can completely stop you being able to train or cause your body to be too fatigued to perform & improve.
Training also needs to be specific for the sport/s or races your are participating in to become fitter. If you are only doing yoga but you want to do a triathlon, then all the yoga is not going to prepare you for that triathlon, you need to be swimming, cycling & running and making it specific to the distance of the race you are doing, so if you are doing an Ironman then you need to train your long endurance, if you are doing a sprint then you need to train your speed endurance. Also adding in brick sessions, training at your race pace, on specific routes that have similar elevation to your race, practicing nutrition/hydration strategies or if your goal is just to get round, making sure you can achieve the distances required.
All of this is my job as a triathlon coach, I write progressive training programs targeting athletes goals, strengths and weaknesses and building them to be specific to the race/s they are doing, making sure they peak at the right time and are tapered to perform their best for that race/s. I can manipulate their weekly training to make sure their fitness gradually increases by using a training stress score (which uses heart rate, power or pace data to determine how hard the session is and score it) as long as they do the sessions to the intensity I’ve planned for that week, fitness should improve. Coaches also monitor & can manipulate how fatigued their athletes are, remember we have to stress the body for it to repair stronger, but we need to make sure we do not fatigue it too much that they become overtrained.
It takes dedication to increase fitness but it also needs to be fun, finding a buddy to train with can really help & fire up that competitive nature as well as having a laugh along the way and having that accountability of not letting your training buddy down, or club sessions they are always fun as well as pushing you to work that bit harder, or even online platforms like Zwift or virtual classes to just have others to bounce off.
One final reminder, whatever way you choose to improve your fitness, whether that’s getting a coach, using club sessions, following generic online programs or just doing your own, you need to be consistent, progressive & specific & make it fun of course, this is a hobby after all 😃
Something I’ve started to realise is ‘I’m no longer Superwoman’. The fact is, I never really was , I was just pushing myself with my exercise, day after day with no breaks and so not giving my body time to recover, adapt, progress and bounce back from the training. Now that I am older this is showing up with more muscle soreness and joint pain.
To be a good athlete we need to have an equally balanced, mobile body with good posture but in today’s society we spend too much time sitting, especially if you have a desk job. The upper back then becomes rounded with shoulders forwards and the chest tightens, the hip flexors shorten, glute muscles switch off and this is just a few of the mobility issues too much sitting causes, there are a lot more. The problem then is we go out for a run or a bike in this hunched over sitting posture!
One way to tackle this daily is by getting up from your desk every hour and walk around, then in a doorway, put your arms either side and lean forwards to open up the chest area and get those shoulders back and down, 10s is all you need to do but if it feels good then hold for a bit longer until you feel those muscles relax. A lunge stretch for the hip flexors, relax into it and feel how good it feels.
Before exercise, a good way to mobilise into a better posture and activate muscles is to do some foam rolling lightly & fast on the main muscles to be used for the activity you are about to do and then mobility and strength exercises like leg swings, arm swings, chest openers, knee lifts, squats, rotations, glute bridges, calf raises etc. This will warm up the muscles, mobilise the joints and activate the muscles ready for the exercise you are about to do.
Making time for some specific recovery like yoga, but if you are new to yoga maybe try Yin Yoga, where you move into the stretches slowly & hold for longer, so more time for your muscles/fascia to relax. Think of your fascia as a plastic bag, if you stretch a plastic bag fast it snaps but if you stretch it really slowly, it lengthens and when you let go, the length remains. This is exactly how your fascia that surrounds your muscles works.
Other good ways of recovery is Foam Rolling (BUT only if done correctly). Rolling frantically and through excruciating pain is not the way to roll, it does the complete opposite as push hard on fascia and it will just stick and then push back, rather than relax. You need to roll slowly, relax and melt into it, sheer any tender areas and enable the fascia to lubricate and reconstruct. I have put on a Foam Rolling Workshop for my athletes to educate them on muscle fascia and teach them how to foam roll correctly and learn that the area of tightness or pain is not always the cause, it is usually the symptom so rolling the whole line of muscles that work together or antagonistic muscles to find the actual cause and then tackle the symptom. If you do not know how to roll correctly (the internet on this subject is a bit limited on the correct technique) I have a good friend who puts on a foam rolling class on a Monday evening via Microsoft Teams, this would be a good way to learn how to roll correctly and have it in your weekly routine, then you can add more in with the confidence your are doing it correctly. You can find details at: www.vanessapt.com
I may not be Superwoman at the moment but if we start being kind to our bodies and give it that recovery it so desperately needs, enabling us to exercise with better form, mobility and posture, we might become a Superhero again!
I recently posted a podcast on menopause for the athlete on my facebook page facebook.com/tribirdsport it was very interesting listening to what other women are going through & what steps they have taken to still be able to participate in sport even at higher levels. I am in the early peri-menopause stage myself & I do think knowledge is power to getting to grips & finding alternative ways to lighten the symptoms. Also talking about it with other women really helps, one with my sanity that I’m not going crazy and offering up what’s working for them plus we do have a good chuckle about it.
Some of the symptoms of Peri/Menopause are:
Weight gain and slowed metabolism
Thinning hair and dry skin
Loss of labido
But what was also mentioned in this podcast that I never knew were itchy skin (I have this), bowel issues (for example runners trots that they never had before), cramps but debilitating, generally not feeling like yourself and this can go on for up to 10 years.
It was the loss of sleep that seemed to be the biggest issue with athletes whether due from night sweats, anxious brain or just constantly waking up & then this crosses over into the day time of having no energy, motivation & just feeling drained.
THE AGEING PROCESS
As we age our VO2 Max gradually reduces therefore slower race times (thank goodness for age categories), so more recovery between training sessions is needed. Another part of the ageing process is lean muscle starts to decrease so Strength & Conditioning should be an important part or addition to your training to help maintain muscle & prevent loss of bone density which is due to the loss of oestrogen. An area in the podcast regarding bone density was that running alone was not enough even though it is a weight bearing sport as stress of running isn’t enough to support the bone stress to bone development turn over. Adding plyometric power based exercises was advised for example body weight or weighted squats, lunges, pushups, Squat Jumps, Star Jumps, Box Jumps, skipping etc to keep the muscles stimulated therefore keeping the lean muscle mass development & increase the bone mineral density development, so adding these into your strength workout or pre run warm up workout is a good idea. Another area coaches, PT’s & athletes can get wrong is thinking that as the athlete is older they need to slow down but that is a misconception as what they really need to be doing is ramping up the intensity with adequate recovery.
Nutrition was another area they talked about on the podcast is that pre/menopausal women become more carbohydrate sensitive so need to reduce total intake of carbohydrate & getting most of this from vegetables & grains (think ones that come packed with micronutrients) – Quinoa, Spelt) rather than the simple carbohydrates we tend to use for racing. Increasing protein intake due to the fact that we are losing the stimulus for lean mass development. Eating real food, a quote from the podcast I liked “we are not as smart as nature,” because we get a lot of co factors from real food for example, eating an orange: we tend to pee out a lot of the vitamin c from a tablet form compared to an orange because the orange has enzymes & co factors that allow us to absorb the vitamin c. Think about what real food you could eat during a race, this would also help with reducing GI distress that is common from these high sugar processed gels/bars etc. How do you fuel the fact that pre/menopausal women need a reduction in carbohydrate intake, how much should we be eating? A general rule of thumb is 40% Carbs, 30% Protein, 30% Good Plant Based Fats (help increase good gut bacteria) but this is not for everyone so play around & find what works for you. During post exercise the protein needs to go up to 30-40g when in menopause to help promote protein synthesis to stimulate muscle protein development and relatively quickly afterwards too. Here is a post exercise smoothie you could try, (i tried it & it was yum)
Banana (can be a frozen banana)
Cup of Non Fat Greek Yoghurt (non fat after training as want it to get into your system quickly)
Protien Power scoop or Nut Butter
Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Soya Milk
an Expresso (I didn’t add this to mine as didn’t have any at the time) but it will make it like a latte smoothie.
Here are some natural remedies I have heard about & tried. Fennel tablets helped with mood swings to start with but I now take Black Cohosh that help with hot flushes & moods. But I have heard Soy is also good.
If you need to be on HRT get on it & get off it as soon as you can due to some of the risks but if the symptoms of menopause are unbearable then speak to your GP about it as there are different doses available now.
Not every woman has a bad time through menopause, some just sale through it but lets talk about it more for the women that are having a tough time because talking to other women who are dealing with menopause as well can make you realise that your are not going crazy & not alone & this feeling that you are not yourself is part of it & as I said at the start you may even all have a laugh together about the crazy things you have said or done due to it. For the coaches & PT’s out there that work with women athletes of this age think about maybe adding a section to your profiling questionnaire asking them if they are going through the menopause & what, if any, actions they are taking to help with it. Getting it out into the open at the start will make it easier to talk about it when training is going ahead, so if there is a really bad week & you can’t workout why, this could be the reason & will make it easier to have this discussion.
Before the end of last year I decided to set myself a challenge of completing the Fred Whitton Sportive in the Lake District, I wasn’t intending on doing it at the time of the event but cycling the route in July time with my other half. It has some brutal 30% hills in it, one being Hardknott Pass.
For a while now I have been having problems with my left quad
aching really badly when going up long inclines on the bike & I haven’t
worked out if this is due to my right leg (with the osteoarthritis in hip) not
working fully & the left having to do most the work or my left leg is just
weak. I see an osteopath regularly &
together we think it could be weak in Strength Endurance so we are trying to
train this. Now along with the fact I
teach 6 spin classes Monday to Friday by the time I come to do my training at
the weekend my legs are knackered, I’m knackered & struggle to fit rest
days in to help. This has all been
stressing me out & then the stress of thinking can I even train properly to
get up a 30% hill as failure is not an option for me.
It was at the start of the new year when I was talking to a fellow coach discussing this stress I had put on myself & she said to me, ‘what is your goal?’ Well as I thought about this, my goal is just to climb a 30% hill, I’m not bothered about riding a 100 plus miles as done this loads of times, I just want to climb a 30% hill (I think). How stupid I’ve been causing myself all this stress when I can just go up to the Lake District do a warm up & ride Hardknott Pass , take the stress away of the full sportive as this particular hill comes near to the end of the sportive, making it even more stressful. It’s funny, as I am a triathlon coach & these are the things I ask my athletes right from the start, what is your goal? And yes this can change & often does throughout training & I guide them through this but when it came to myself, I fell to pieces. So if you take anything from my little story remember to ask yourself ‘What is my goal?’ when you feel training is causing you stress, remember that goal can change, you are in charge of your goals, whether it starts off as a time goal but ends up as just finishing for fun, remember we are doing this for fun as a hobby, it shouldn’t be stressful!
I might even end up doing the whole sportive at some point after I’ve climbed this hill & I might not but what I’m not going to do, is stress about it!!
A follow up from my last post regarding Rest & Recovery. I have a good example using myself:
I am also a Spinning/Indoor Cycling Instructor & I teach 6 classes Monday to Friday, add on top of this my training of 2 x Swims, 2 x Wall Climbing & Kettlebell Strength Training during the week, at the weekends I like to do a mountain bike ride or road bike ride (or both) so recovery is very hard to factor in but I have been taking one of the weekend days off. This weekend I had to ride Saturday (which is my preferred day off) due to the weather being better. OMG! I noticed a huge difference today from not having a rest day before it. My legs struggled, I’d start off the trail section full of power & then my legs would just give up half way & it would be like cycling through sticky mud. Even the hill sections were a slog. It was hard going! Whereas the weekends when I have took Saturday off & rode Sunday I have had so much more power & energy, I fly round the trails.
So I re-inforce the importance of rest & recovery if you want to perform to your full potential. For me it’s not the end of the world as I am not training for a race, it’s just for fun but for you athletes training for your races it is vital.
The importance of a good quality diet for endurance athletes makes the difference between functioning at your best or breaking down.
Have a plate full of varied vegetables, lean protein & good fats.
Avoid junk foods, processed foods including too many energy bars & gels.
Limit your intake of alcohol & limit your intake of caffeine to the mornings.
Another thing to think about, are you eating enough? Tiredness can be a symptom of not eating enough calories, if you are sleeping 8hrs & not overtraining & feel tired look at your diet. Many endurance athletes fuel their workouts okay but then end up in a deficit in their total days calories & this can be down to a fear of putting weight on or just not knowing how many calories they should be eating a day & this deficit will affect your ability to train to your full potential.
Start the day with a good quality breakfast approximately a third or more of your daily calories, this will set you up for the day & avoid getting tired in the evenings & eating poorly or too much.
These symptoms could be a sign of not eating enough calories:
You are not enjoying your workouts, feel difficult & lack quality
You get more hungry in the evenings
You are constantly thinking about food & crave sweet food
Feel tired even though getting enough sleep
Not recovering well
The timing of eating is important too, especially for athletes, as you don’t want to be running straight after you have eaten a big meal even if it was high quality. Make sure you are having your nutrition approximately 1 to 3 hours before a training session & if you are prone to GI stress then limit the amount of fibre before a workout. Then refuelling from 30 to 60 minutes after a workout of good quality carbohydrates & protein when your muscles are primed to accept nutrients.
Monitoring your macronutrients will help your performance better as well & this might need some trial & error to see what percentage of each macronutrient works best for you. As a triathlete you might need more carbohydrate (the body’s primary energy source) but do play around as some triathlete’s find they perform better with a higher fat diet. I would suggest starting with 40-65% of carbohydrates, 20-30% protein & 20-35% of good fats, play around until you find what ratio’s works best.
Things to look out for are:
Feeling low in energy before, during & after workouts
Frequently feeling fatigued
Not recovering well
An important nutrient we forget is enough hydration. Getting enough will help with digestion, absorption of nutrients, healthy skin & optimal brain power. Getting enough hydration plus electrolytes is also important during training & racing. How much you should drink can vary between individuals so pay attention to your thirst & drink at first signs.
Signs to look out for are:
Dry lips & throat
Headaches & not being able to concentrate
Finally try to keep a healthy relationship with food as it can become obsessive & cause feelings of guilt. Remember that eating should also be pleasurable & all foods have some nutritional benefits just some eaten less frequently than others, but mainly to not beat yourself up when you do eat that guilty pleasure. Just as long as you prepare meals at home more than you eat out & limit to a minimum pre-packaged convenience foods, you will be on the right track.