Outdoor Summer Sessions

It's summer, so take advantage of long days, occasional sunshine and warmer water. In short, it's time for some serious outdoor sessions


Posted: 23 November 2009
by Ross Chainey

If winter is the time of year for lengthy, plodding endurance sessions to keep your fitness ticking over, then summer is all about shorter bursts of energy and using the fairer conditions to hone your technique, sharpen speed and unleash your true potential in time for your races.

For most of us, summer is a reminder of why we took up triathlons in the first place. Coach Dan Bullock (www.swimfortri.com) says, "It's just great to be outside. When the time comes to get away from the chlorine and straight lines of the pool and hit the lido or parks, I couldn't be happier. "The sheer joy of looking up at clouds, floating in the open water and being out there at 7am surrounded by nothing but nature makes you feel alive and ready to take on any challenge."

Summer lovin'

Emma Smith, a European Duathlon champion, agrees: "Winter training is about getting on with it, but summer puts a spring in my step and puts me in a better mood."

There is a reason for this sense of wellbeing and feeling that you can put in greater effort. According to Dr Victor Thompson (www.sportspsychologist.co.uk), "Brighter weather equals a brighter outlook, feeling more positive and, of course, being able to go out more, all of which help our health and performance.

"Most of us feel more positive during the summer, as days are lighter for longer. This helps us to wake up earlier and easier and it is less of a drag to climb out of bed and to fit in training before work. Similarly, the evenings are still light and it's easier to come home and head out for a ride, run or swim. Basically, training and being more active become so much easier."

Your body prefers it, too. Coach Rob Griffiths (www.trainingbible.co.uk) says, "Summer means an end to turbo sessions in the garage and it is great to go for a run or ride past 8pm without lights or heavy layers of clothing. And this warmer climate also helps us to avoid muscle pulls from over-contracting."

Spoilt for choice

Summer also puts a smile on triathletes' faces because it marks the beginning of race season, giving you the chance to put to good use all those painful miles, revolutions and strokes banked in the winter and spring months.

"First and foremost, when summer arrives you should start to think about the races you would like to do that year," says Tim Rogers, former Commonwealth Games triathlete, Ironman competitor and personal trainer. "Then how you tailor your training in the summer months can reflect your chosen events. Remember that you are building up to and planning for a particular day and race.

"There are races every week in peak season, but you can't do them all so it is important not to take on too much."

Not doing too much means not training for long hours - so say goodbye to your winter timetable. "It's about short, sharp stuff," says Rogers. "You move from a steady volume of about 60 per cent heart rate for hours at a time to explosive sessions at 80 per cent heart rate for, say, 45 minutes. The winter gives you stamina, summer gives you speed."

Heat resistance

Hot weather has its pitfalls, however. "Always be wary of the heat," says Rogers. "We all like to be outside but if you end up getting sunburnt your skin can't breathe and your body will struggle to keep you cool. You need to breathe, but so does your body, so slap on the sunscreen."

Sweating copiously also means you need to replace fluids at a higher rate. "Prepare accordingly and make sure you are hydrated before you head out to train, and keep drinking throughout," says Smith.

It can take a while to adjust to the change in climate, so don't worry if your pace is initially not what you hoped it would be. "It can be a real effort to keep cool and training sessions can sometimes feel sub-par," says Thompson. "You may experience the effects of dehydration, such as cramps and less power or concentration, which may lead you to question your performance. But this is just your body coping with the demands caused by the cranking up of heat - you will adapt." 


The summer sessions that will prepare you for race day

Dan Bullock, swimming coach, www.swimfortri.com

“If you want to race fast, then you have to train fast, so this session will inject some speed into your training.

This is a session for the open water – which is essentially a different discipline from doing laps in the pool. Put your wetsuit and goggles on and become used to the conditions. Once you’re over the initial nerves, you will feel like you could swim the channel if you had to.

This is essentially a fartlek session in the water. There are no straight lines or walls to confine you here, so you can mix up the timings a bit if you want to.

Start swimming at a steady tempo for 80-100 strokes, then increase your speed for a further 30-40 strokes. Repeat for four minutes, then relax for one minute. Get an idea of the length of your stroke – there are no distance markers. Repeat five times.”

Bullock’s summer kit must-have
“Make sure you invest in a light and a dark pair of goggles. This way, you are prepared for any conditions.”

Rob Griffiths, coach, www.trainingbible.co.uk

"The transition into summer and preparation for race season require careful management. This session is about moving from the build period of your training to hitting your peak.

You also need to practise transitions. This brick session is ideal for sprint- and Olympic-distance races as it familiarises the body with the bike-to-run changeover while you are working at a high intensity.

This is a 90-minute bike interval and tempo run session with a high-speed transition. Set your running kit up as you would in a race. Warm up on the bike for 10 to 15 minutes, then put in three or four 5K intervals at race pace. If you can use a course that simulates your next race, all the better.

Arriving back at your transition, do a fast turnaround and head out for a 20-minute tempo run. Make the second half coming back slightly faster than the outward half."

Griffiths' summer kit must-have
"When I swim in the open water, for the first few times I use a neoprene skullcap to help me adjust and keep warm."

Emma Smith, 2008 World Age Group Xterra Champion

"When a race is coming up, I want to train in a way that builds speed but also does not leave me knackered at the end of it. This running session will do exactly that, but at the same time it will hone your endurance levels and teach you to perform at a consistent pace.

You can do this session at a running track or an outside space over a similar distance. All you are doing is 400 metres hard round the track, then 100 metres jog recovery. Keep repeating this for 30 minutes. Then, reap the rewards."

Smith's summer kit must-have
"I have a trusty pair of Oakley sunglasses given to me by Ironman Triathlon World Champion Chrissie Wellington. I couldn't go out there without them."

Dawn Hunter, coach, www.swimfortri.com

"Make the most of summer training sessions. My favourite is a weekday evening 10-mile bike time trial. These are held by cycling clubs across the country in the early evening and you can usually just turn up and join in. You can find out more information by visiting www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk.

Doing a simple 10-mile time trial is a great session as it is rare to be able to build up the same amount of intensity on a turbo trainer or by heading out onto the open roads. The courses vary, but they allow you to gauge your cycling progress and improve your technical ability and bike-handling skills."

Hunter's summer kit must-have
"A good pair of sunglasses are a must. I couldn't live without my Smith shades."

Tim Rogers, former Commonwealth triathlete and coach

"Summer gives you the chance to combine running and cycling outside, which forces you to improve your transitions and your technique, rather than just staring at the wall in the gym.

This session involves doing short sprints, which makes it easier for you to stop people passing you in a race. If you can hold a sprint for 45 seconds or so when someone threatens you in a race, you will probably find that they will think again and start to drop back.

It's simple - just run two laps of a running track at high threshold, then four laps on the bike. Have a short rest, then repeat. Moving between the two like this gives you the ability to work at a high threshold and makes the transitions feel like they happen naturally."

Rogers' summer kit must-have
"Be careful to choose a sunscreen that doesn't contain titanium; it stops your body from sweating, which is essential to your natural cooling system."


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