Last week I rented a small SUV while I was at the Long Course World Championships in Oklahoma City, OK. Normally I rent compact or economy cars because they’re less expensive and I don’t have a need for a lot of cargo room. But invariably, by the end of my trip my back and neck are tired and sore from the low, molded seats that these cars usually come with. So on the spur of the moment I upgraded to an SUV. My back was really really happy with that decision! But I had two close calls while driving on the highway, trying to switch lanes and noticing that there was a car in my blind spot.
I’m used to the blind spots on my own vehicle, and therefore know where and when to look and for how long before I switch lanes. I was a bit surprised to have this happen twice…once on my right and once on my left in this rental SUV. It didn’t take more than one occurrence though, because as soon as I knew there was a blind spot and where, I knew to look for it before switching lanes.
Improvement Requires some Type of Feedback
Normally in order to locate your blind spots you need some type of external feedback. Hopefully it’s not a car accident that becomes your first warning a car was too close to you. Typically I look in my mirrors, rear view, then side view, then finally I turn my head to check for anyone there…in that blind spot that I’m used to. IN this new car, I had to look further back and for a second longer. But once I knew it was there, it became routine to check and I had no further close calls over the weekend.
Applying “Blind Spot Reduction” to Triathlon Training
How does this story apply to triathlon training? WE all have blind spots in our own preparation for the sport. Whether it’s a fitness blind spot (Doing only long slow distance and no intervals?), possibly a sport balance blind spot (you like running the most, so you skip all your bike rides?), or often a technique or skill blind spot (not sure when to shift gears, or how to smooth out your swim stroke?)
A blind spot means we can’t see it. We need some type of external feedback to identify it. So chances are, unless you train often with a variety of friends, hire a skills or technique coach, or sit down with someone to review your training and preparation you may not know where your blind spots are.
I can guarantee one thing, though…if you can locate them, they will almost automatically improve! Just like my rental SUV story. Once I knew they were there, they became a non-issue.
How to Find your Own Blind Spots (Hint: If you already know about them, it’s not a blind spot!)
If you become aware that you preferentially skip bike rides to go for a trail run, then maybe you’ll be more inclined to get in an extra trainer ride this winter or sign up for a spinning class. Pay for it ahead of time or buy a punch card, and you’ll be more likely to go.
Even if you enjoy swimming and feel skilled, seek out a qualified swim coach in your area, or someone who can do video analysis from good quality submissions…and get some outside feedback on your stroke.
How to Specifically Ask for Outside Help
Take a swim or run clinic. Ride with a different group of people. Join a local tri club’s weekly fitness session. All of these are ways to get objective feedback especially if you ask for it! How do you ask for feedback? Just pick out someone who seems confident and comfortable, or perhaps there is a coach attending and let them know your concerns. Ask questions like:
- Can you watch me shift during these rolling hills and let me know if I’m using my gears appropriately?
- My right shoulder gets sore when I swim longer than 1/2 mile, especially when I am forced to breath left. Can you take a look at what could be contributing?
- I can’t seem to increase my pace when I try to run intervals. Can you let me know if you see anything that could be causing an issue?
You don’t have to know the answers, and you also don’t need to Know what your blind spots are. You only need to be aware that all of us have them. Blind spots are even easier than weak spots to address, because the simple act of becoming aware of them opens up all sorts of avenues to create lasting improvements.
I’d love to hear from you. What kind of blind spots have you discovered in the past? How did you address them?
Age Group Nationals Summary …
Steel City Endurance had FOUR athletes represented at the Age Group national championships just two weeks ago (the same time the Olympics were going on, making it doubly exciting!
Michelle Johnson McClenahan and Kirsten Ingeborg Sass both competed in the Olympic & Sprint Distance races held on Saturday an Sunday, both are coached by Coach Suzanne. Matthew Martino amd Richard Albertson lined up for their start at the Olympic distance race Saturday morning, both Matt & Rich are coached by Coach Michale Bauer.
In our Midst, a National Champion x 2 (Overall and Age Group)
The big story of the weekend is the remarkable accomplishments of Kirsten Sass, named the 2015 Triathlon of the Year and Duathlete of the year (first time ever one athlete has received both awards). Kirsten finished 1st in her age group and 2nd overall in the Olympic Distance Race on Saturday. The next day she finished 1st again in her age group, as well as first place OVERALL in the sprint distance race, beating the 2nd place finisher by just 3 seconds!
Duathlon National Championships – Bend, Oregon.
Tested the limits big-time. Beautiful city, challenging course, great competition, wonderful time meeting up with old friends and making new ones, and an absolutely fantastic job by USAT, Tim Yount, and the Duathlon Team putting on a top-notch event.
If you can run and ride a bike – make this your goal for 2017. Go to Bend. Test yourself. It will be worth it!
Sunday morning, waiting for my flight home, I met a girl (Kirby Heindel Adlam) whose 2nd duathlon EVER was the world championships in Spain. Now THAT is incredibly inspiring. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The opportunity is yours for the taking – why not seize it with both hands!?!?!
I am thankful beyond words for my husband, Jeffery M Sass (most of you know as Elvis), who is my constant support and cheered tirelessly all day for everyone out there competing; for my family who watched the children so we could pursue this adventure; my awesome coach (Suzanne Atkinson) of Steel City Endurance who has put up with multiple texts and questions and always has the right answer; to Raceday Transport (goracedaytransport.com) who got my bike from Spain to Bend so all I had to do was show up at the event and my bike was ready to ride (I cannot even begin to say what a fantastic job they do, definitely worth checking out!);
Bobby McGee – what I learned from him in running was all that got me through that second race (whew!); UCAN nutrition also saved me for that second race, Lynn Greer for the awesome new race suit/helmet/shoes/all my biking needs; to John Lines for all the support and encouragement; and to ALL of you who cheered from near and far – you keep me going!!!! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!
?#?USATDU? ?#?steelcityendurance? ?#?UCAN? ?#?kask? ?#?fizik? ?#?racedaytransport??#?testyourlimits? ?#?Elvis? ?#?ilovemybike? ?#?hills? ?#?lifeisgood?
Good luck to Kirsten Sass, Steel City Endurance athelte coached by Suzanne Atkinson in this weekends Duathlon World Championships in Aviles, Spain.
Kirsten earned her spot in Team USA by winning last years sprint and standardized Duathlon National championships on the same day!
Kirsten entered 2015 wanting to improve her running form and dedicated herself to both technique as well as training. Running transformation camp with Bobby McGee early in the season set the stage for her to not only improve her form, but also quickly improve her post bike speed and resiliency in run training.
Her “secret” run training included short post bike race bricks. Not simply doing a hard bike ride followed by a trainig brick, but competing in road bike and time trial races (often winning) and then immediately doing a quick 10-15 minute run.
These sessions forced her to learn leg turnover after digging deep in a race effort not just a hard trainig effort. The difference may seem subtle but it’s significant.
Kirstens training also included progressive training blocks that built strength, leg speed, neuromuscular connections and of course overall fitness.
Her run improvements since her stress fracture in 2013 have been from a long term planning arc, and not from a need or desire to hit a specific pace at a specific time in her season.
This is is the true result of process over outcomes…competing with team USA at the World Championships.
Good luck Kirsten!!
1000 Meter Freestyle Workouts for Triathletes
Whether you are looking to swim a sprint distance or an Iron distance triathlon, having a few “goto” 1000 meter or 1000 yard freestyle workouts will help keep you from getting into a rut when training. For the long course triathletes, do these 1000 meter/yard sets 2 or even 3 times through to cover the distance needed in your training.
Creating a Mini-Project Accelerates Your Progress
You can use these sets to create mini projects or tasks to challenge yourself. It is a great way to stay engaged with your swimming and take control over your own training plan.
For example, a 1000 yd improvement project may look like a sequence of 3 sessions cycled through for 3-6 rounds before retesting. You can use these 1000 meter/ yard sets as the main set, add a 500yd tuneup or warmup to swim exactly 1500m (a swimmers mile). If you are swimming in a yard pool, just add on a 150 yard cool-down for an imperial version of the swimmers mile (1650 yards)
If you are looking for a main set that’s longer, such as 2000 or 3000 yards or meters, you can repeat the main set, or combine two of these into one practice.
Suppose you’re looking for 2000yd main sets, you could take these three suggestions below, each at 1000 meters/yards and to them in any of 3 combinations (1 & 2, 2 & 3, 1 & 3). Rotate through these combos for a unique set of 3 main sets, each having a set that you do twice before taking a break from it. There are a lot of ways to customize this practice idea.
Here are sample 1000 meter practices sets for you to play with
Pre-project test set: favorite warmup, 1000yd TT with splits & stroke counts, cooldown
Swim #1: 5 x 200
Swim #2: 10 x 100
Swim #3: 5 sets of 4×50
For each of these swims you can choose some element to improve like…consistent SPL across all sets, or consistent tempo (use a tempo trainer). When you gain or if you already have good control, manipulate a variable…like 5 x 200 swimming the first 50 at one SPL, the next 100 at SPL + 1 and the last 50 at SPL + 2. This should result in a build within each 200.
Vary the rest intervals to create a bit of variety. Since the 200s are more aerobic, keep the RI short in that practice. Since the 50s *can* be anaerobic, maybe choose to swim descending 50s with 30 sec rest, rest 2 minutes and repeat that 4 more times.
Then you cycle back to the 5 x 200 set and have some comparison…choose 1 metric to try and improve.
After 3 cycles of this…whether you swim every day, every other day or 2 times a week…you go back to your 1000yd TT and by that time you should KNOW before you swim it that you’ve improved based on metrics from the previous sets.
Maintain Focus on Form and Skill During this time as well.
Be sure to toss in at least 1 swim, possibly 2, of un-timed, form only swim sets, other strokes, or a team workout for variety. Or a water aerobics class.
Comment below with how you are using these sets!
For more ideas on creating swimming improvement projects, check Terry Laughlin’s Swim Well blog, or check the Total Immersion website forums as well.