A time trial or TT is any event where you test yourself for a distance. Many athletes use time trials to simulate race day stress, nutrition, skills, fitness and even their outfit! It’s kind of like a controlled experiment, where you set up race day conditions, without the race.
Think of it as a dry run, a good practice for runners and walkers and a chance to experience what a distance feels like. This includes practicing starting the day before with your nutrition, a good sleep, and breakfast, what to wear, when to show up, using the bathrooms, as well as how to pace yourself for the distance. While many events are virtual this year, you can use TT’s and Virtual Events as a way to prepare for success at future in person events.
For a first time participant there are a lot of factors to take care of, so please be sure to preview everything. Getting a chance to practice all this stuff before race day is HUGE in both physical and mental preparation.
If you want to perform your own personal Time Trial, here are some tips:
Do the TT as a key session in your week. Choose your distance and do it on a day that you think you will probably do a virtual event on. If in doubt, Sundays are good days to choose because most events fall on a Sunday morning. And we hope to be doing these in person events in the future!
The TT should be considered the week’s biggest effort. Your other sessions will be easy efforts.
You are doing the TT as a way to practice for other events, either virtual or in person. Remember that a TT is simulation of an event type effort, without the nerves!
Pacing –Depending on how long you have been training, those with GPS/Garmins will know their paces as well. For people unsure of their ability to pace, the TT is a perfect way to learn.
Start out very conservatively for the first half. After halfway, you will either be able to stay at the same level of exertion or pick up the pace (if you have started very conservatively). See if you can time the first half and the second the half of your distance. These are called ‘splits’.
If you ‘even split’ (get the same time for both halves) you have paced yourself well and will have a pretty good idea of your pace for event day. If you were significantly faster over the second half (faster by 1-2 minutes or more), this is called a ‘negative split’, and your second half pace, might be more of a realistic pace for you. If you are significantly slower (over 2 minutes), this is called a ‘positive split’ and then your pace is likely what your pace was at the middle point just before you started to slow significantly.
After you complete your TT, take a cool down period of another 10 minutes of easy jogging or walking, and then replenish your energy with some nourishing food and more water. Later that day stretch some more and get some good recovery. Give yourself at least 48 hours before you train again, although some easy walking, cycling or swimming will be good recovery.
I encourage you to approach a TT seriously but also lightheartedly. Put some serious thought into preparing, and show up calm and optimistic about it. Approach a TT with a logical and practical sense of it being a ‘dress rehearsal’. You are going to practice everything you want to happen on race day, including nutrition, hydration, mental preparation and physically practicing walking and running a distance. The more you can prepare before the event, the more likely your event will be successful, and also, stress free.
Racing is a game but it is also a commitment. By the time you arrive at the starting line, you have signed up, you have prepared, you have increased your skill level, and all that’s left to do is to enjoy the scenery, the people and the brilliant feeling of completing what you set out to do.
Run For Joy!
With the current restrictions on travel, there is a good chance that very few people are going anywhere on March Break this year, and for those of you with small children and teenagers, you may have to plan ahead and be a bit creative with training in the days ahead.
Holidays and school holidays can be a much needed break for most people, and time to spend alone, with friends or with family. They can also present athletes with restricted training times and an interruption in an otherwise predictable routine. Good to be prepared for this!
Here are a few tips about how to train while over March break (or on a future vacation), with some advice about time management, but also some suggestions on how you can train your brain to relax as well, and set your expectations to be realistic, so it works for you.
How to train away from home or during holidays. Note: some of this applies to the type of travel we can’t do now, but can also be used for ‘staycations’. I've left the travel tips in with a sense of optimism for the future.
Take Active Recovery
Vacations are an obvious time to take a week or two of active rest, or to take an easy recovery week. If you can, plan to have a down week for the week that you travel, and preferably the first week on a multi-week vacation. That way, the jet lag, and acclimation comes during your easy week. Plan your training ahead as much as possible taking into account that you will have to be flexible. Even if you can do little else, it is realistic to plan a week of only run or walk training. Cross training activities like cycling and swimming may be restricted.
Gather support by Communicating
Let everybody know that you will be training a few times, and will try to work around family and group activities.
Get it in before the day starts, as later in the day it is more likely you will be tired from activities that centre more on the whole family. Before the household wakes up is a perfect time. More than likely, everybody will still be sleeping when you return, so you haven’t missed anything and you’ve gained a calm start to your day. Another good time can be before dinner, when everybody is having their downtime after the day. This assumes of course, that either someone else is cooking or you have pre planned dinner.
For travelling: Do advance research on the location you will be visiting. Is there a gym for strength or treadmill options? What are the trails like? Even if you can’t get in your usual sessions, 20 minutes easy training and doing drills and maintaining feel is better than none.
Or read this article in Runner’s World about why you should run while travelling.
Including this awesome tip I hadn’t thought of. “Look up Races to Steal Their Routes”.
For staycation: Plan your training for the week around your family or kid’s activities. If you are dropping them at a park or camp for an activity, or the allowed playdates, you can get a short training session in – even switching off with the other parent if an adult needs to be around.
Take advantage of free ME time!
If you are a parent of young ones who relies on childminding or pre-schools for time to fit in your training, holiday training can be a challenge, but again, gather support and plan. Also be prepared to head out the door at the last minute, when plans change and a 30 minutes window of time opens up for you.
Be flexible and adventurous - it builds resilience
You might have to get up earlier, train at odd hours, or drop a training session. Chances are, if you are an active parent, you have already mastered the skills of “creative time management, training and childcare”; here’s the chance to test out what you have learned. Drop your expectations of the perfect training - just enjoy wherever you are and whatever you can do.
Have Snacks at the Ready Always and Especially If you are Travelling
Bring or buy snacks to keep on hand at home or in a hotel room. Some energy bars for calories in a pinch are always a good idea. I generally hit a store right away when I travel, and get a few days’ worth of food snacks: almonds, trail mix, bananas, apples, salty snacks like pretzels and bagels. (I also buy a good bar of chocolate, and bring those Starbucks instant coffee packets so I am not hunting for a coffee shop on my first morning).
Most of all just be prepared to be flexible and easy going, possibly missing training for the chance to go for a great hike along the beach with your kids.
Stay in the moment; your regular training can resume at any time, and don’t spend time fretting about missed miles. Remember, you always have the power to breathe.
With some advance planning and creative time management, it is possible to have a fit holiday!
Run for Joy (wherever you find yourself!)
If you have been training for a virtual event over the past few months you have likely learned one of the greatest lessons in sport:
You can’t wait to feel motivated. Motivation happens as a result of good planning and great habits. You like something so you want to keep on going. You are motivated to keep something good going, especially when it has a positive effect on your mental and physical health.
It only takes a brief scroll through Instagram to notice that the world is full of inspiring words and photos, however, one of the most important things people learn through this process of following a training schedule, is that habit and action create far more meaningful results, than does reading about motivation or inspiration.
Right now, with 8 weeks of training under your belt, and another season of uncertainty around events, I would like to plant the seed that will help you continue your motivation to train.
Now that you have some good habits formed, and now that training is no longer new and scary, I encourage you to approach the rest of the clinic mindfully - that is, do your training, as you have been doing it, with good habits and practices (sleep, rest, nutrition etc.) - and TRUST that you will have done the best you can with your training until now.
Your fitness may be to the point where you can work well in discomfort by now, during your faster intervals, but resist the urge to go beyond that, to constantly test and strive for more, in the hope that you can boost your fitness even more right now.
Resist the urge to test yourself too much because you are curious. Save that curiosity and challenge for virtual event day, or you risk leaving your best efforts in a training session. The training over the next few weeks is to prepare you for your best effort, not BE the best effort.
With weeks of training under your belt, your body is fitter and stronger, but also is carrying fatigue and you have to be particularly careful not to overdo it right now – which is easily to do with your excitement and enthusiasm! Injury prevention is still our goal.
Maintain patience for the process, and trust that you don’t need to do anything extra or find extra magic out there. The magic is in the process and the mental preparation for things to go well.
It isn’t over at the finish of the clinic: are you ready for May and the rest of the year?
As we get caught up in the momentum of our training, planning and preparing for sessions meticulously (or even winging it) we sometimes can’t see that we are giving an energy and passion to something that is unmatched elsewhere in our lives. You have a training plan mapped over several months and every couple of days is a session that brings you closer to your goal. From taking care of your time management to tinkering with your nutrition and gear, you create a forward momentum to the end of the clinic that becomes a constant part of your life. You are committed to eating well, sleeping well, and making positive choices on a daily basis to support your clinic night and goal race. You even have a vision of what that finish is going to look like and how you feel crossing it. This is awesome and a fantastic part of sport, but do you have a picture of the day after?
Without even knowing it sometimes, athletes have a huge emotional - as well as physical - investment in their goals. The more important the event, the larger the investment and when the event is all over, there is sometimes a feeling of letdown as all that energy dissipates across the finish line. Without the goal pulling you forward, there is an emotional void and a sense of letdown or post-race blues after the adrenaline wears off. This is totally normal behaviour and being prepared for the week after your clinic ends or your goal race is an essential part of season planning.
A Zen approach would suggest that all events are neither good nor bad, they just are. While sport is full of highs and lows, weathering everything with a sense of the satisfaction and wonder of 'being', creates a peaceful relationship with your journey. Here are some other general tips for preparing for the ‘other’ side of the finish line.
1. Have a plan for what’s next. Whether it is a two week break, planning to just re do the training plan, signing up for another clinic, start to think and plan your post-race training well in advance. If you are planning on a break, then make sure you know how you are going to fill your time. Knowing what to do and what you want to do after the clinic goes a long way to filling the void.
2. Put that energy to good use. Plan on a few projects or goals that don’t revolve around your training. Keep training lightly, switching gears and getting some other things done provides a nice balance to the single minded focus of big goal. Choose some alternate sports for a while, and ones that you can enjoy with your friends, partner, kids etc.…
3. Plan to reflect on your training and review your process. Reflecting is a great process for appreciating your accomplishments and finding a sense of purpose and happiness including things you love about your activity. If journaling isn’t a smooth process then simple lists will do. Make sure you include things that you did well and things that need improvement when looking at your past 14 weeks. List 5 goals you accomplished during the season and 5 workouts you loved. Note 5 things you want to learn or improve upon.
5. Live in the moment AND think ahead. While most people think only of their next race or in one year season cycles, great training encompasses development in 2-4 year spans. When you know that your last training clinic is only a part of a bigger picture, you get a good sense of perspective that allows you to fully appreciate all the moments that a season offers.
More on post-race planning and action coming soon! Meanwhile, keep loving your walking and running program and feel proud of where you ARE RIGHT NOW!
How Strong Are You?
As an endurance coach, I encourage athletes to take strength seriously. A good strength program will help build endurance and resiliency for your activity, keeping you injury free and help your performance. The goal for endurance athletes is to improve performance on the road and in the trails, and so, strength training done effectively, mitigates internal muscle breakdown which is critical to the endurance athlete. It will improve endurance, performance, mobility, and recovery.
Intelligent strength training doesn’t mean spending hours on machines at the gym. Intelligent strength training supports your endurance training, can be performed in 2- 3 short sessions each week, and makes you feel awesome. Not only do you run and walk better, but you are stronger for all your daily activities: lugging groceries, lifting your kids, or putting your dog in the back of the car. As you age, strength training should start to take up a larger percentage of your weekly training minutes.
Strength training for runners has two purposes: it can focus on the specific needs of an athlete with biomechanical imbalances to help overcome or prevent injuries, which promotes more consistent training and hence, improvement.
And, strength training done as a compound, multi- joint movement, like deadlifts, single leg deadlifts or kettlebell swings (not your standard gym machine stuff, where you are just sitting down and isolating one muscle group) will promote a balanced and strong body for improved performance. Performed correctly, barbells and kettlebells used for lifts and pushes or ballistic training, requires you to brace the core strongly and this results in a strong posterior chain - your back, glutes and hamstrings, which is a huge benefit for runners.
The barbell or kettlebell deadlift, teaches us how to hinge at the hips correctly, use the hamstrings effectively, and increases strength for the action of running. Matt Pearce talks about the benefits of deadlifting for runners here in this Training Peaks article. Like the plank, deadlifting will also make you bulletproof for lifting boxes on moving day.
I encourage runners and walkers to find a good gym, and a certified strength and conditioning expert when starting a strength program. Someone who is knowledgeable of the Functional Movement Screen testing (FMS), which is the observation and testing of 7 basic movements in order to assess strengths and weakness, and who can help you find a simple but effective routine that works for you. You don’t need a personal trainer, but 2-4 sessions with an instructor to teach you proper form and movement and to set you up with a program is a great start.
A good strength program can be fit into a 30 minute window 2-3 times a week, and the payoff with a strong posterior chain and great mobility will be noticeable. Not to be confused with Olympic lifting, or weightlifting, proper strength training for runners will not cause you to gain weight, or compromise your cardio training. Your muscles will become stronger and denser, your mobility will improve, and your posture and stamina will create a strong platform for your endurance training. Other anecdotal positive side effects of strength training are better sleep quality, greater confidence, and helping with metabolism.
A popular form of gym training suggests the only way to develop strength is for athletes to reach intense degrees of fatigue – this would be the flood of lactic acid and burn intrinsic with high intensity interval workouts (also known as ‘bang for your buck workouts). Technically this training should be used sparingly, in peaking situations for example. High acid baths incurred frequently result in a decrease in work capacity and force athletes to ‘put up’ with the unpleasant sensations of fatigue. In a nutshell this training disrupts many physiological processes that support improved aerobic endurance performance.
One of the best way to find a gym or an instructor to work with, is simply good old fashioned word of mouth. Ask around, read reviews of gyms and set aside some time to learn to be strong!
Promoting running and physical activity one joyful heartbeat at a time!
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