Firstly and huge thanks guys! There’s been an awesome response to the #AskBerks segment. They cover a whole bunch of different topics and I’ve also grabbed Grant my coach to come in on a few questions as well.
I’ve just finished packing to head over the pond to NZ to race in Auckland and as I promised I wanted to get this first round of #AskBerks back to you by the end of the week. So here goes:
Simon Hatlee asked:
Q. How many interval sessions do you do on the bike to get your power and speed up?
A. I usually do 2-3 a week, which will include big gearing work on the flats as well as hill work.
Grant: Our programs revolve around “Strength / Endurance” and “Strength / Power”. The intervals themselves are important but they play a secondary role (ie) If there was a choice to made between Strength / Aerobic capacity and top end intervals the Strength would win out every time because it underpins everything. Also able to withstand higher wattages on climbs for a longer period of time without the same level of oxygen cost and I think that’s important.
Marty McDonald and Craig Guilfoyle asked about gym sessions:
Q. What’s an example of your common gym session? How many sessions a week do you do?
A. Marty, at present I do one gym session a week. I keep it pretty simple, so I’ll do a little bit of work on the legs with some squats and leg press. I’ll also do some strength work on the upper body, with exercises like lat pulldowns and chin-ups.
On top of that I do core work 2-3 times a week. I just do that at home and that’s stuff like push-ups, planks and sit-ups. I also do some very specific work for my dodgy hip, such as 1-leg bridges. Unfortunately, hip problems can be pretty common among triathletes, no matter whether you’re a pro or an age-grouper. For some more info and some great exercises to strengthen your hips, improve your hip drive and prevent injury, click here.
Custom race suits
Marty also had a question about race suits:
Q. Your race suit, the one with the sleeves. I got a quote to get one made for $900. Do you think it would be worth it?
A. My race suit is very specific to me – it’s a one-off custom-made kit from Scody which I really love racing in. Obviously, I’m a little biased here Marty. Scody are great sponsors and I love their gear, which is why I wear it. When I spoke to the guys at Scody they quoted somewhere between $400-$900 for a custom made race kit – really depends on the style you choose. You need to work out if the money is going to be worth it for you. One thing to keep in mind though – the price per suit drops significantly if you’re ordering more than 5. So you could get that cost down if you order as a team or even a bunch of friends. FYI – Scody have got a cool function on their website where you can design your own race suit here.
Swimming in the front pack
Damien Collins asked:
Q. I know you were never a swimmer growing up, nor a front pack swimmer, correct me if I’m wrong. But you did a massive dedicated swim block to turn yourself into a swimmer doing 50k a week? How much of your bike/run had to suffer so you could focus on your swim? How long did you keep those massive swim blocks for before you returned to training as normal? For example, what would you swim in a typical week now?
A. Mate, that was a fairly epic question, but it’s a good one. You’re right, I’ve worked really hard on getting my swim happening. Gilesy and I agreed that there was no point even going to Kona last year if I couldn’t swim with the front pack. So, I was rapt when I came out of the water with them – the hard work paid off.
To strengthen my swim leg I was swimming around 20-25km per week. 50km would have just about killed me! But I was making sure it was really good quality and not taking any shortcuts. I really made an effort to ensure my technique was good.
I did back off my running, by about 30-40km per week, which actually really helped me in the swimming sessions. I’m working on getting my swim km’s back up to around 20km per week, but at present I’m doing 15-20km.
And you’re right, Damien, having a swimming background would have really helped a lot. One athlete that I know well, Clayton Fettell, swims really well and he’ll continue to dominate that leg of the race due to his background in swimming as a junior.
Long ride intensity
Matt Cannizzaro asked:
Q. Hey man! Congrats on a great 2014. I am doing 4 rides a week leading into IM Melbourne: 1x strength (hills), 1x easy, 1x WT tempo set and 1x long ride (approx 6hrs). What intensity do you think I should do my long rides at? I train to HR and power.
A. Matt, you’re right on the money with those rides. Towards the tail end of the long ride, you should add in some IM efforts (goal pace). Keep up the good work, Matt, and I’ll see you in Melbourne on March 22!
Grant: Agreed that is a pretty safe plan. On the long ones you want to make sure you are not sitting those in the grey zone somewhere between easy and hard as it can become junk. The key is just to ride nice even tempo on those rides –keep pedalling and keep it even. You do want to get a sense of your goal pace over the final 6 weeks but if you are pressed for time you could add a few of those to your long ride but keep them realistic. Also good to keep in mind that you build strength and speed from beneath not from above so you want your aerobic speed and strength to be as developed as you can get it so you build that presence and focus over time. Too much over speed won’t work, it simply teaches people how to blow up. So in simple terms build your speed from beneath don’t try to pull it from above pace.
Doing your first triathlon
Travis Hill asked:
Q. I’m about to do my first Triathlon on Sunday. What tips do you have for beginners who are starting out and do you remember your first Tri?
A. Travis, I’m guessing that by the time this blog comes out you will have completed your first triathlon. I hope it was an awesome day for you! I still remember my first tri, although it was a long time ago. I was an 18 year old competing with a bunch of my AFL mates.
My best advice to you and to anyone who’s doing their first triathlon is just – enjoy the day and don’t put any pressure on yourself.
Robyn Winn asked:
Q. Do you believe you should compete in a marathon race prior to your first IM?
A. No, not at the full distance. I’d suggest doing a double run day.
Grant: In my opinion, I think people vastly overestimate what they need to do in terms of run volume. If you think you are going to run 3.7 hours for the marathon I think it’s very counterproductive to train that long, you are essentially teaching your body how to operate with bad form. This also applies to slower athletes. You want to reach the start line health, strong and above all efficient. Strength and Efficiency are the 2 keys to IM racing and people do not need to circumnavigate the globe in training to race well. My advice is to only run to the volume where you feel you can maintain good form, keep that a focus.
In my experience whenever I’ve had someone mix a straight marathon even a training run into an IM prep it has been disastrous. Anything is possible if you reach the start line healthy and strong.
Staying focused in training and on race day
There are a couple of questions relating to this topic. Steve Copelin asked:
Q. I’d like to know with all the volume of training you do, how do you keep focused & energized on each session? Some days the body and the mind just won’t do what is required.
A. Steve, I’m just like anyone else. I suffer from purple patches and you just have to soldier through them. I’ve also got a good bunch of training mates at Aeromax and my coach, Gilesy, helps me keep my head in the game too.
Grant: It’s about being present in the body at each session as much as it is about the mind. A cluttered mind space makes it near impossible to focus. Many people simply can’t turn their minds off. This is where some sensory work can come in handy, simple things like spending 10 mins before a session sensing density and aliveness in the feet and legs-that takes you out of the mind and into the body. The body has its own intelligence and it’s very hard to access changes in form if you are not occupying that space while predisposed with a story your mind is telling you.
Dave Picot asked:
Q. What goes through your mind on the 2+ hours on the run during a race? Surely you can’t be thinking about form that entire time?
A. You’d be surprised just how much there is to think about on the run. Basically, I try to stay in the present moment and focused on the job at hand. Having said that, sometimes there are some distractions to keep you amused. At Kona, I was having quite a battle with Jan Fodeno when he started farting like a champion. It certainly lightened the mood and gave me a good reason to break away from him!
Hot feet on the bike
Ben Bailey asked:
Q. I get hot feet when I ride, which is pretty intense. Kicks in after one to two hours plus. Any remedies?
A. ‘Hot foot’ is a pretty common problem for cyclists. Believe it or not, the issue is not caused by your foot over-heating. It’s actually the result of pressure on the nerves in your foot, just behind your toes (your metatarsal bones). Pressure is generated when your feet expand on a long ride and this gives you that burning sensation in the balls of your feet.
Ben, there are a few things you can do to fix this. You can re-direct the pressure by moving your cleat position back. Your shoes may be too tight – try different shoes with more room in them around your toes. Maybe even consider wider pedals, if they’re too narrow for your foot. For a great article on ‘hot foot’ and some ways to fix it, click here.
Oscar Mendez asked:
Q. Supplements: which ones do you trust and use? Thanks for this initiative and for the chance you gave to all age groupers, average Joe triathletes, and fans, to get in touch with you. I wish all pro triathletes could do this.
A. Thanks for the kind words, Oscar. Glad to be giving something back.
As far as supplements go, I’m a sponsored athlete with Endura, which enables me to also have access to Ethical Nutrients and Metagenics. I’ve found them to be very beneficial and I haven’t had any issues with them. I currently use:
- Fish Oil
- Vitamin C
- Immune boosters
- Iron (for when at Altitude)
- Probiotic (Inner Health Plus)
This topic is a big one, so it was no surprise to see a whole bunch of questions that related to diet and nutrition – before and during a race. So, here we go…
Andrew Garwood asked:
Q. Do you follow a special diet?
A. I try to eat clean and well, but will indulge sometimes. (hahaha… most of the time!) Which leads to this question from Garry Stevens:
Q. Is it true you drank an entire bottle of champagne in a 10 min drive on a bus at Great Keppel? And then threw up all night?
A. Maybe all night…. But I’m sure I was still out all night though. (Note to readers – This is not part of my regular training program, so don’t try this at home… save it for Great Keppel)
Nicole Smyth asked:
Q. Do you include wheat, dairy and processed sugar in your diet or are you pretty strict about what you eat?
A. I’m not too strict, but I certainly reduce my dairy intake during race week.
Thanks to James Berry, Mark Firth, Matthew Roberts and Valerie Koroneos for your questions about nutrition and hydration on race day. Here’s a quick rundown for you:
Before an event
A. The night before an event I’ll just have a standard meal. The morning of the event I have Endura Optimizer and some banana and I’m good to go.
During the race
A. As far as carbs intake during an IM race, I’ll take 2-3g per hour via gels and drinks. When it comes to hydration, it’s recommended that you have your body weight (in kgs) in mls per hour at least. I use the Endura ReHydration Bottle plus one extra in my special needs bag.
To all the triathletes out there, let me say it’s so important to get your nutrition and hydration right on race day. Plus it’s not simply about hydration, you need to manage your blood sodium levels as well so you avoid hyponatremia, which can seriously kick your butt. My advice is – don’t leave it to race day to sort this stuff out. Experiment with nutrition and hydration on your longer training sessions, so you’ve got a solid plan in place before you hit race day.
Thanks to everyone for your questions this month. Sorry to all those who missed out on an answer this time round. But, keep sending those questions in to #AskBerks.