“Breathe through the hips”

Hopefully the statement above triggered the same ‘WTF?!’ response as it did with me when I first heard it. I’m not a medical expert but could this additional set of lungs be the human body’s best kept secret? It would seem unlikely.

As almost a complete yoga novice, having only been to about 5 classes and followed some online videos, perhaps the most unexpected challenge has been getting to grips with the slightly abstract terminology. However, it’s starting to become clear that in many ways this is actually quite a necessity. Being based entirely upon personal perception, the feeling of ‘breathing through your hips’ of course has no absolute definition. In fact, it is concerned with relaxing the soft tissue surrounding the hips by controlling your breathing and focusing the mind.

The hips are fundamentally important to every discipline of triathlon. One of the greatest revelations a novice swimmer experiences is the effect that kicking from the hips rather than the knees can have upon freestyle swim speed. By transferring the primary contracting muscles further up the body, drag can be greatly reduced, rotation can be better controlled and a level position in the water can be maintained. In cycling, one of the greatest confining factors concerned with finding the most aerodynamic yet powerful position is hip mobility. In running, the gluteal muscles play a greater role in locomotion than any other. Although, in todays deskbound society these large muscles can become lazy and disengaged, placing undue stress on other leg muscles and making it hard to hold form while running.

So, where am I going with this?

‘Train intentionally, not habitually’ – Naudi Aguilar

Reading this phrase, the motto of Functional Patterns, struck a chord. Whether heading out on the bike or popping squats in the gym it’s all too easy to mindlessly go about your business without ever being fully present in the moment.

  • Every training session or exercise should have a process-based focus at the front of your mind e.g. even pedalling on the bike
  • Have a mental checklist specific to every exercise you do and tick it for every rep – Are the muscles you’re trying to train engaged? Is your breathing in time? Is your form good?
  • If you write your own, then reappraise your training plan – Do you believe in it? Is there a coherent plan ending in your goals? Are there ‘junk miles’ you can cut?

‘We all need to stretch more’ – Jamie Kujawa

Looking back on the past 9 months, I’ve only ever thought to stretch when I’ve been pretty much physically broken. I’m sure I’m not unique in this regard and would normally consider 15 seconds or so on each of the major muscle groups in the leg after a run to be a job well done. Yoga seems to have an uncanny ability to find tightness in parts of your body you’ve probably never even felt before. While in many ways different to triathlon, the thread of learning by challenging yourself is common and the benefits undoubtedly transfer. Leaving a class recently having managed to achieve a forearm handstand (against a wall, easy does it) for the first time, I was really pleased; partially because I conquered something I never thought I could do and also because I hadn’t been shown up (too badly) by the 8 other girls!

A couple of thoughts from a very novice ‘yogi’:

  • Don’t worry how inflexible you are to start with, persistence will pay off
  • Try different instructors and types until you find one that suits you
  • Breathing makes such a difference to how deeply you can stretch
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Ten of the best online training resources for triathletes

Swimming

One reason triathletes often struggle to make significant improvements in their swimming performance is that they consider themselves a runner/cyclist that swims, rather than changing between being a swimmer, cyclist and runner depending on the training session. An example of this is learning to flip turn properly. Many triathletes see this as a waste of time because most races are held in open water. This fails to acknowledge that the hydrodynamic awareness gained by learning this skill can have lead to a dramatic increase in swim speed.

  • http://www.swimmingscience.net – Check out their blog discussing the latest swimming related sports science research
  • http://www.usms.org – The training section of the US Masters website has plenty of articles and session ideas. Unfortunately the ‘workouts’ page requires you to be a USMS member, however other sections such as ‘stroke technique’ are free and useful.

Cycling

‘Watts’, ‘RPM’, ‘RPE’, ‘BPM’, ‘MPH/KPH.’ What’s most important? How can we use them to execute a faster bike split? Leaving talk of bike componentry aside, becoming a strong cyclist involves more that just Sunday group rides with your mates. Time trialling is the key skill all triathletes competing in non-drafting races will have to master. This involves hard solo training sessions and the resources below will, I hope, give you some session ideas and things to focus on.

  • http://home.trainingpeaks.com – Further to the well-known training analysis platform used by many coaches/athletes, this website contains a well-written blog on a wide range of training topics. Although not free, Training Peaks also have a wide range of target driven training programs available to purchase.
  • http://www.cptips.com – While their website layout is slightly basic, Cycling Performance Tips contains tonnes of articles and information relating to all aspects of cycling.

Running

Getting carried away with increasing mileage and speed can be a major pitfall in the progression of any runner. With the help of some of the websites below you could become a better runner without even putting your trainers on.

  • http://www.kinetic-revolution.com – Running technique coach and injury rehabilitation specialist James Dunne’s website is packed with excellent resources.
  • http://www.running-physio.com – Well researched information regarding specific injuries and conditioning for runners.
  • https://www.youtube.com/user/yogatic – The Ekhart Yoga YouTube account has loads of easy to follow free yoga videos, helping you to stretch out tight muscles. Check out their ‘Yoga for Runners’ videos.
  • https://iancorless.org – Ian Corless’s ‘Talk Ultra’ podcast, while actually aimed at ultra/mountain runners, contains interesting interviews relevant to anyone that races Ironman or runs off-road. You’ll end up wanting to try races such as the UTMB, Zegama-Aizkorri and the Kima Trophy!

Strength & Conditioning

A stronger triathlete is a faster triathlete. Every athlete should implement gym training as part of his or her training routine. Timing and purpose are vital to ensure positive results.

  • http://www.ironmacfitness.com – Andy McKenzie is one of the UK’s most respected strength and conditioning coaches. His no-bullshit approach has helped many athletes gain better control of their bodies, avoid injury and maximise their performance. For workout ideas, have a look at the media section of his website, sign up for occasional emails and follow him on Instagram.
  • http://www.functionalpatterns.com – The Functional Patterns website blog and social media pages contain a wealth of information aimed at safeguarding the body against the impact of modern culture, such as sitting for long periods.