Statistics are a fun thing for a lot of triathletes, they love the lap button on their Garmin, they can't wait to download and unveil the training session they have just completed. Why? So they can see how well they performed. That approach is a little too late. How will that information help your performance. It is historical. It is a good bench mark to see how you improve over time, but how does it help you improve now, at this moment, while you are training.
Treat each practice as an opportunity to do better, to challenge yourself to improve in the moment. I love the garmin alarm for this, it is immediate feedback. It tells you what you are doing in the moment, it allows you to change the course of your practice and allow you to meet the end goal of that practice.
In the swim, I use a tempo trainer and recently introduced the finis heart rate monitor to the other side of my swim cap. I look quite goofy and I am seriously creating more drag with gizmo's. What was I expecting to find out, I wanted to approach my training from a learning mode of being in the moment. The Finis heart rate monitor tells you at specific intervals what your heart rate is, no watch to look at, it speaks to you. That little feature is perfect because the second it tells you your heart rate, if the results are going up, or down you should understand why. If you don't you should be trying to understand why.
My goal this year is to be training at my Maximum Aerobic Function, a number calculated from Maffetone's equation for MAF. This number is supposed to be used for the swim bike and run. I thought that was an interesting change from the previous suggestions of scaling back by 10 percent from the run, to the bike, to the swim. I looked at it and decided I wanted to give it a try. After all I have had issues with aerobic threshold in the water and the run due to sports asthma. Maybe a little training up there would give me a little bit better ability to push it during a race. I was going where I didn't want to go before.
The Finis heart rate monitor woke me up in a hurry. You can't change what you do not acknowledge. I pushed off for my warm up. I was swimming between 100 to 110 bpm. That seemed hard to believe. I could be walking and doing the same. I got into a pace that I thought would be working, and the results were in the mid 120's. Okay so now I had to kick it into overdrive, turn that tempo trainer up, I was really starting to wonder if I could get my heart rate up, it got there, but I also knew that was not my racing stroke rate.
I removed the tempo trainer and tested my pace without a tempo and just through my natural rhythm. I was getting into the 130's but it was low. I then decided to test the components of my practice to see what my heart rate would do. I am a very lazy swimmer. My heart rate didn't come into the 120's for kick, I just don't like going fast I guess. On my back during back stroke it reached the high 120's while I was relaxed, apparently I am not as relaxed on my back, too many air holes pointing up I guess.
My next set proved the theory of how it all relates. Although I kick during my swim apparently it is a gentle movement. When my next set of practicing one flick kick per stroke, I achieved my heart rate goal. My kick is what was missing to get my heart rate up. That makes sense, as I was reducing it to keep my heart rate low. What was very good to learn was that it only takes 1 kick per stroke to get there and that is what I am striving for. Does that one kick per stroke affect my speed compared to my gentle kick per stroke? I wouldn't want to apply something to jack up my heart rate if the return was seriously just heart rate with no speed result. The one kick per stroke effectively reduced my stroke count by one. How do I know that? Because I am not using a gizmo that counts my strokes for me, I count my strokes every length. I do not rely on historical data to answer my questions, I am training in the moment. I am learning with every stroke. With every pushoff I am trying to solve some question on how can I do this better. I am not generally just hoping that with enough repeats of the same thing that I will intuitively learn something that profoundly affects my swim, I am actually planning ways to test ideas on what would help and changing my workout as I go through my practice based on the results from the previous set. How do I know this made me faster? I am using a tempo trainer, how much faster? 1.28 seconds faster on 25 meters. I swam 100 meters, so I improved my speed by over 5 seconds on 100 meters. In a race I would take that in a heart beat! actually about 8 heart beats.
On the bike. I use cadence as my measure, I have a certain cadence that I feel is better suited for my limited lung capacity and my rather stronger legs. I stay within 82 to 96 rpms. I find it difficult to stay near 96 but I keep training there. My race results are usually in the 82 rpm where it is easier to breath. I also watch terrain and try to predict a change in resistance. If there is a cross wind coming from the front, I am watching for tree breaks and gearing at the time I predict the resistance changes rather that wait to respond to an increase in cadence. This saves me many seconds on a bike leg. I use the same strategy for hills and head winds. My whole race strategy is built around the wind and its direction, starting with a tail wind spells disaster to someone who likes to take advantage of a tail wind, they push too hard to get their highest overall speed with a tailwind forgetting the upcoming headwind to the finish line. Then I hear them complaining about leg cramps on the run.
On the run, you have heart rate and cadence as well. If you keep to a 90 cadence you will save your legs and probably avoid some of the leg issues that come from over striding. Keeping a tighter gait will keep the foot turn over high, which limits the time in support and avoids getting high impact from long reaching strides. This is all done in the moment. It changes the outcome.
Your strategy for your race should be as detailed as possible. If you train in the moment you will have a better time during your race as you will have practiced a very special skill that you need when you race. Be in the Moment, be in what you are doing, what you are experiencing and what your body is asking for. This is the way you will race your best and train your best. Use historical data for that, history, use what is happening now to shape the very next thing you do, do not leave it to chance.
Happy training and practicing.