How Quickly Can You Lose Fitness #RunFormFriday

How Quickly Can You Lose Fitness #RunFormFriday

How much will taking time off from running hurt my fitness? It’s one of the most common questions I get from athletes struggling with injury, fighting illness, or hesitant to take a much-needed rest from training. This becomes especially prescient now with training ability reduced by the Coronavirus. As athletes, many of us are paranoid about taking more than a few days off, generally thinking it will ruin our months of meticulous training.

As a coach, I am not immune to being frightened by this irrational fear. I’ve had niggles, injuries and illness that I have tried to train on through in one-way shape or form, generally not ending particularly well!

However, I wanted to share this with you to demonstrate that this is written with the deepest understanding of how hard it can be to listen to science and understand that a few days off isn’t going to end your hopes of running as fast as you’ve dreamed.

When we delve into the effects of taking time off from training, we have to analyse the detraining from two perspectives: 1) your energy systems such as aerobic fitness, threshold and VO2 max; and 2) your structural systems such as your muscles and neuromuscular coordination (how fast and efficiently your brain can tell your body to perform and execute a specific movement).

Effect of detraining on the aerobic system
Because VO2 max is one of the best measurements of an endurance athlete’s physical fitness, it’s the easiest baseline to compare the effects of detraining on your aerobic system. To be brief, VO2 max is an individual’s maximum ability to transport and use oxygen during exercise.

Recent studies show that there is little reduction in VO2max for the first 10 days following inactivity in well-trained athletes. It is important here to mention that all of these guidelines assume you are a well-trained runner, having trained consistently for a 4-6 month period. New athletes will lose fitness at a slightly faster rate since they have a lower base of fitness.

After two weeks of not running, studies show that VO2 max decreases by 6%. After 9 weeks VO2 max drops by 19%. After 11 weeks of no running, Studies demonstrate that VO2 max falls by 25.7% from peak physical fitness. So, as you can see, from an aerobic standpoint, you have very little to worry about if you have to take a break from running for two weeks or less.

This is very important for those runners that need to take a hiatus because of a small injury or are nervous about taking downtime after a long training segment. A 6% decline in VO2 max can be made up with one or two weeks of solid training. In the current situation with Coronavirus, this shouldn’t cause too much of a worry – while we are still allowed outside in the UK.

While percentages are fantastic, what do those numbers really mean for runners? Let’s use an example of a 20 minute 5k runner. A 20 minute 5k runner has a VO2max of roughly 49.81 ml/kg/min (estimated using a calculator). After 2 weeks of no running, the 5k runner would lose 6% of his VO2 max, which would be 46.83 and would now be in 21:05 shape, give or take a few seconds. After 9 weeks of no running, the same 20-minute 5k runner would now be in 24:00 minute 5k shape. After 11 weeks of no running, our poor running friend would be in 25:30 shape.

While this is not exactly ideal, this is the absolute worst-case scenario, with no training done in this time. Even if you can’t get out as often as you might like, or for as long as you may prefer, if you are training then you are preventing this kind of drop off.

Effect of detraining on the structural system
While the reduction in aerobic fitness has been explored in an applicable manner, the effect of detraining on specific running muscles has been harder to find.

However, the little research that does exist about detraining, in general, proposes that the most dramatic reduction in fitness occurs over a 10 to 35-day window. Before and after this window, detraining from a structural perspective isn’t severe.

Also, there is some research on how quickly you benefit from strength training. In short, most of the research shows muscle power declines significantly slower than metabolic factors.

While not run or triathlon-specific, this study on detraining in kayakers shows that over a 5 week period, even minimal training (3 sessions as opposed to around 10!) can stop the decline in physiological gains. Image courtesy of Yann Le Meur Sports.

What does this mean? After 7-10 days of not running, you will lose some muscle power and coordination, but not enough to totally derail your goals.

With a few specific workouts such as hill sprints, you’ll be back to your pre-detraining levels before you know it. If your break from training is longer than two weeks than you’ll have a little bit to make up before you can get back to personal best shape.

What does it all mean?
Research shows you shouldn’t be too worried about losing significant fitness if your break from running is less than two weeks.

You’ll lose some conditioning in your aerobic system and muscles, but pre-inactivity fitness will return quickly. Again, this assumes that you have built a healthy and consistent base of training of 4-6 months prior to taking time off. It’s not the end of your career if you haven’t been training for this long; it simply means that the reduction in fitness will be slightly more pronounced.

After two weeks of not training, significant reductions in fitness begin to occur and you’ll have about 2-8 weeks of training (depending on the length of inactivity) ahead of you to get back to your previous level of fitness.

On the flip side, doing SOME training, whether running, turbo riding, skipping or strength training will slow any losses considerably. If you are injured, there is always something you can do training-wise. In the current situation with Coronavirus, while it may not be ideal that you can’t be out training all the time every day – there is a lot that you can do, and you can come out of this lockdown in a strong position.

Send us a message or leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions! We all have our own thoughts on the matter, and we all have something different that suits us.

See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

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Long Plods Or Short Swims To Get Better #SwimTechTues

Long Plods Or Short Swims To Get Better #SwimTechTues

Many people seem to get in the pool and plough up and down for length after length. Here’s a little secret of the swimming world: you do not have to swim 400m repeats or a 3k straight to get better or faster.

In fact, if you are a beginner swimmer, shorter repeats like 25 to 100m can actually make you faster and more efficient than doing longer distance efforts.

Since swimming smoother and stronger is largely dependent upon much your body position and pull technique, if either or both of these two are lacking then you are going to be expending a good deal more energy for very little gain; sometimes you might actually swim slower.

By swimming shorter, having shorter and more regular breaks, and focusing on your form each and every time, you can build your muscle memory with good habits and not have to worry about fatigue breaking down your technique. You’ll probably find that you swim slightly quicker as a result too, so you can look to maintain this as you swim longer.

Try a session like this – or a variation of. It will build your swim stroke up through drills and then will take that technical work and translate that into speed:

Warmup:

4×25 side kick drill (go half on your left side and half on your right)
4×25 6/3/6 drill on 10-15s rest
4×25 catch up drill on 10-15s rest

Main set:

20×25 following this rotation Focus on your balance in the water
Focus on good rotation
Focus on focus on good hand placement
Focus on high elbow catch
Put it all together

8×50 Smooth and strong on 30s rest

Cooldown: 2×100 choice of stroke

This sort of thing will always work best when you understand your stroke and what the breaking points are, what things you need to work on and improve; whether that is from a swim lesson or a friend has watched you swim.

As your season and your form progresses, this sort of session can become more of an easy recovery swim rather than a normal session.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, Facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

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See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Be A Lazy Swimmer – Swim Smart #SwimTechTues

Be A Lazy Swimmer – Swim Smart #SwimTechTues

Very few athletes that I see or coach are lazy. Quite the opposite! But, many swimmers work extremely hard and that excessively hard work does not pay off in expected gains. Instead of working harder to make small gains, why not think about working smarter. By training smart, and swimming lazily you should see more improvements. Many times, young and old swimmers get burned out with excessive training sessions. With smarter swimming, you will be more likely to enjoy your training and get more out of it. We all want to go as far and as fast as we can for each and every stroke, for minimal energy. That’s the ethos of swimming lazy

Swim Smarter with Mindfulness

The first, and best way to swim smarter is to swim mindfully. Think about what you are doing. Too many people will swim fast, but not pay attention to the quality of their strokes. If you are not using your body the right way, you will not better your strokes, your strength, and your flexibility. You might get a good aerobic workout, but you might not actually get much faster. It is better to swim slower, smoother and calmer while paying close attention to the technique of your strokes. Are your hips at the surface? Are you swimming from your core? Are you dragging yourself along? Are you connecting with the water with power? Are you kicking with more than just your calf muscles? Make smart adjustments to use less effort, and get the most out of your swimming. Swim lazy!

Swim lazy

Swim Smarter with Drills During Your Workouts

No matter how often you swim and no matter how long you swim, it is a good idea to add some swimming drills. These can be sets of laps that should be completed in a certain amount of time, or it can be something as simple as using pull buoys or paddles. It is always a good idea to try to do something intentional while you spend time in the pool. Drills can help you focus on strength, speed, stroke, or breathing. Make your workout smarter by actually swimming with a purpose.

Occasionally, Take it Easy

Finally, give yourself some time to recover. Pushing hard all the time is like driving a car and constantly bashing against the rev limiter. To change gear, there has to be a drop in the revolutions of the engine. Use the easier swimming and recovery time to be aware of your stroke and take control. Then when your body is feeling a bit more refreshed, you can attack a few more sessions or sets again.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by emailfacebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

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WHY AM I NOT IMPROVING? #SwimTechTues

WHY AM I NOT IMPROVING? #SwimTechTues

 

Many athletes often expect to improve more quickly than is really feasible, especially when they are strong runners and cyclists. This inevitably leads to frustration, particularly when you cannot swim the number of lengths you would like to or develop the kind of swim speed you were hoping for. This is extremely common with newcomers to any sport and can often lead to people giving up trying altogether.

All this is connected with our emotions, but it also about setting realistic goals in relation to our own ability and motor skills.

 

Why can’t I swim that well?

This is the question lots of us ask ourselves just after starting to swim. We inevitably compare ourselves to better swimmers, which can often be extremely frustrating. This can also depend on the methods our swim instructor employs to teach us the proper technique.

Good instructors realise that beginners have not had time to learn the right motor skills to swim properly, whatever stroke they are focusing on. In this respect, we know that verbal instructions need to be backed up by visual aids: observing and attempting to implicitly memorise is the most effective strategy for achieving the aspired standard of swim technique. The idea is to make all the movements constituting our swim stroke automatic. Learning to make these movements automatic takes time and lots of practice, as well as expert help.

One major reason for not swimming as well is not putting yourself and your body in the correct position. Because swimming is counter-intuitive, this means doing things that the survival part of your brain isn’t necessarily comfortable with doing, and this can take some time and mental resilience.

 

Why can’t I swim as many lengths as I would like to?

Quantity is something even less experienced swimmers use to assess their swim skills. Nevertheless, it is also a yardstick that can easily lead to frustration. To avoid this, it is extremely important to set realistic goals for your own ability, as well as being willing to train hard.

How far you swim is not the only measure of how well you are doing. Quality and quantity are both equally important in testing your swimming ability. If you can do the same distance in a session but feel better, not as tired, and swim smoother or quicker, then that is just as much – if not more of an improvement than swimming further. 

Some of your distance issues may be related to pacing. The further you want to swim, the easier your effort will have to be, this is a learned skill that takes time and practise, just as in running and cycling.

 

Take away

Learning to swim takes time. Improving your swimming and technique takes longer. It’s not just a case of turning up and putting in the physical effort – it’s a concentration effort more importantly. Take your time and enjoy the process!

 

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

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#SwimTechTues – How To Work On Pacing

#SwimTechTues – How To Work On Pacing

#SwimTechTues – How To Work On Pacing

One of the things that can make or break your swim is your pacing. Whether you’re a new swimmer or an experienced athlete, the pace you train or race at can affect your chances of success and also your enjoyment.

When athletes start swimming for the first time, many feel like they have issues with their breathing. They could be incredibly fit and strong but put them in the water, and they are blowing like a train after one length! The issue here is that at this stage, they only have one pace – things are either on or off, go or stop. Go is 100% effort. If you imagine when you went for your first ever run; the first 2 minutes, you felt amazing, running strong. Next thing you know, you’re gasping for air and needing a pause. This is how you are feeling when you start swimming. As you get experienced with your running, you learn to regulate your effort, and therefore your pace. In the water, you have to learn the same skill. In the same way that you would run a 10k slower than a 5k, or a half marathon slower than a 10k, your swim efforts should reflect the distance that you are aiming to swim.

If you’re a more experienced athlete pacing in your training sessions can help you get the most out of your swims. Swimming is different from biking or running in that it’s easier to go hard every day without tearing up your ligaments and joints. Since you don’t feel the same type of soreness as when you run and bike, swimming leads many triathletes to think that maybe they didn’t swim hard enough. Beware: Swimming hard every day eventually will wear you down and something will give. It could be your shoulder, your back…or your motivation.

Learning to pace is a skill. It will improve your race pace, keep you injury free and maintain your motivation.

So how do you manage your intensity when it feels good to work hard so much of the time?

 

Swim with a plan: Each time you get in the water the workout should have a specific purpose. And every swim set within that workout should have a distinct purpose.

pace

 

For example:

Drill/Skill Sets: The purpose of a drill session is to practice technique and improve your efficiency. It’s NOT to see how fast you can swim 100 metres while doing fingertip drag or catch up.

Speed Sets: These sets are designed to teach you how to become efficient at going fast and to raise your top end speed. These sets are NOT designed to see you swim 35 seconds for 50 metres and then swim 45 seconds for the rest. Pick a speed you can handle for the duration of the set. Typically, when I have a set of 10×50 metres, I start out at 30 seconds and aim to maintain that speed. You don’t want to fall apart. Your times shouldn’t vary too much. Learn to swim fast when you are tired – feel what might be falling apart.

Endurance Sets: These sets are designed to create a nice big aerobic engine that will let you swim at race pace for as long as you need to. These sets include 200 metre and up repeats. You may have to swim a set of 3×500 metres. Just like when you swim the speed sets, maintain your pace throughout or get quicker. If you start out at 8:00 for your first 500, and then swim 8:30, and then 9:00 you just blew your whole workout. Remember you want to maintain your pace throughout the reps, and for each rep.

The goal of any swim set, be it 50-metre efforts or 800-metre repeats, is to swim with consistency and at an appropriate effort level. The more you start incorporating this into your practices, the faster you will become.

Pacing Skills

 

There are different ways of swimming sets, that can improve your feel of effort and the pace that you are putting in. Negative splits, build and descending sets will all challenge your ability to change pace and control how you swim.

Negative splits – A common set across various sports; doing the second half of a rep at a faster speed than the first half.

Build – A steady acceleration across the length of a repetition.

Descend – Maintaining a steady speed across each repetition, but swimming each repetition quicker than the last.

The main point is to learn the importance of pacing in the pool. Take it out easy during the first few sets and repeats when you swim. As you warm up, increase your pace. If you find that you’re swimming is getting ragged, or the pace starts to fall away, take a pause at your recovery and workout what needs attention to help you swim stronger and faster.

Practice the way you are going to race and it will become second nature. You want to be the athlete doing the passing at the end of the race, not the one being passed.

Start slow and finish strong.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

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