The 2023 racing season finally ended this month and I’m very pleased to say one of our athletes well and truly went out with a bang. Just wanted to say a very special shout out to Andrew Reardon who put in a lifetime best performance at Ironman Florida to go 9:36:06. An incredible performance but one that is so very much deserved.
For Andrew this was the end of a long season but for many of you your season is only just getting started again. If you were sensible, you will have taken a well-earned rest. The reward from this is you will be feeling hugely excited & motivated about what’s ahead. When that motivation and excitement returns you just know you’ve given your body and mind all the time it needs to rest and recover so it can go again.
If you have done a thorough review of your previous season you will also be armed with a much deeper level of knowledge about who you are as an athlete. You will also know more about your strengths and weaknesses both mentally, physically and technically so you can start to plug any gaps in the season ahead. Always keep asking yourself where and how can I be that little bit better so I can perform at a higher-level next time?
There are so many areas you can improve but for me the start of the new training season should focus on the following:
1: Have fun getting fit: If it’s not fun and you aren’t motivated or enjoying it then you need to shake things up. This time of year is all about starting from a low base, building gently and enjoying seeing the improvements from one week to the next. Training should take a playful and fun tone but with a committed edge that deepens and gets more focussed as the weeks and months progress.
2: Focus less on the numbers more on developing your ability to feel effort as your primary guider: They’ll be low anyway as you’ve lost fitness. An example of this is in the early stages of the return to training your previous Z2 could be more like your Z3 due to the loss of fitness. This is where developing your feel for the right intensity wins over the numbers to make sure you aren’t over stretching yourself in the early stages of training. Don’t worry though, after 3-4 weeks you usually see a big jump up in fitness. In the meantime, focus more on your ability to feel the required intensity of training because this is your most accurate guide. The number are purely there as a backup, don’t think you can just jump back into the old numbers. It will take time and a little bit of patience to get back up there again so be kind to your body.
3: Find the routine and weekly training structure that works for you BUT also the people who are closest to you: This is where I see so many people getting it so wrong every year. Your training will can place enormous demands on the people around you so you better involve them in this process as much as you can. Ask them what is acceptable and what isn’t and put agreements in place. This can save so much unwanted stress in the months ahead. The more you work with those closest to you, the more you will get back in return. Being able to communicate is absolutely crucial.
5: Build strength from the word go both in and out of the gym, especially if you are injury prone: Whether you do it at home or in the gym starting off your year with a tailor-made strength plan that is specific to your body. If you want to reduce injury risk as you load the body with swimming, biking and running you need to do the strength work to support it. The reason being is it can reduce injury risk and help improve performance. These don’t need to be long arduous sessions they can simply be 15-30mins workouts that focus on specific areas that can be spread over the week. Shorter sessions are much better for athletes who are time constrained, you don’t need to be doing hour long sessions if you haven’t got the time for it. Take a highly individual approach and be creative with it, you might be quite surprised what you can fit in when you think outside of that rigid one-hour time box.
6: Make consistency NOT intensity your number 1 goal: Intensity should only be a very small part of the overall program goal. How you execute the easier sessions is just as important, if not more so. Most go too hard because they mistakenly think it’s more beneficial. It’s how consistent you can be hitting the right intensities without getting injured over the weeks, months, years ahead that should be your priority. It’s no surprise to me that those athletes who continually fail to control their intensity in training, fail to be able to do it in racing. This then has direct correlation to them underperforming in racing. If you can execute your easier and harder efforts wisely you will continue to go from strength to strength.
7: Listen to your body: It will tell you all you need to know. So be prepared to adapt your training based on what your body is telling you. In my experience when athletes override what their instincts are telling them they increased risk for problems to arise. You aren’t being weak by listening to your body, you are being incredibly sensible and smart. Making sensible training choices often gifts huge reward in the long run.
8: Keep it simple and do the basics REALLY well: Eat well, sleep well, recover well, focus on self-care, execute training sessions at the right intensity, listen to your body. It isn’t rocket science. Before you start to complicate your training with the ‘marginal gains theory’ ask yourself are you doing all of these to the best of your ability first. They often have a far greater return when they are.
9: Rest up if you get ill: This time of year (Oct – March) is extremely high risk for picking up coughs, colds, a sore throat, covid, flu and other Winter nasties. I think half of my athletes have gone down with illness in the past few weeks alone. Just remember you gain nothing by training while ill. In fact, you are probably prolonging that illness as the body tries to heal itself. The sooner you rest fully, the sooner you return to training so don’t take any chances.
10: Shut out the noise and focus on what YOU need to do: There is no doubt that I see the negative effect of social media on swimmers & triathletes minds almost daily. Just because someone has a big following on social media doesn’t mean to say what they say is gospel, far from it. That goes for both coaches, pro swimmers/ triathletes and other ‘influencers’. Be very careful of who and what you listen to because if that advice isn’t specific to you and your individual needs it can be detrimental and toxic to your progression. I appreciate this isn’t easy because as a Coach of over 20 years I can easily filter out what I think is nonsense and what is valuable. We live in a day and age where we are bombarded by people advice and opinions on things that can vary from one individual to the next. So, focus on building a small team around you of people that you trust and have a proven track record. It’s just too easy to be seduced by the promise of this and that as the next big thing. And believe me if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Andrew Reardon
- Splits: swim 1:08:56 / bike 4:44:00 / run 3:33:26
- Total Time: 9:36:06
- 6th/186 (45-49 category)
If there was ever a man who does the basics well it’s this one, so I was so pleased to see him get his just reward. This was a performance that has been a long time coming but one which I always knew Andrew was capable. To say it’s been a roller coaster journey for him to get here would be an understatement. The thing I most admire about him is that he hasn’t given up at any stage even when things didn’t go right. We’ve both learned from these trials and tribulations to bring him to a point where we understand what was needed to be put in place to find this performance. This took out of the box thinking to find a training structure that works for his work life and most importantly his marriage! It wasn’t easy being the CEO of a major UK business with 3 young children and agreements needed to be put in place. It also meant improving communications at home so that all parties were happy with the time given over to training. Once we got this right his progress went through the roof. This is a lesson to all that when you have a happier harmonious work/life/ training balance it can have an enormous impact on performance. Huge congrats Andrew, you just put the biggest piece of the jigsaw puzzle down that will enable you to find that next level of performance we are looking for.
Some of my fave things this month…
Waterman (prime video amazon)
This wonderful recommendation (thanks Lizzie) surprised me in so many ways. Mainly because I had never heard the name Duke Paoa Kahanamoku before. I had no idea what this incredible man had achieved in his life. Regarded by many as the undisputed father of modern-day surfing, he was also a 5-time Olympic medallist that included winning 3 gold medals. One for the 100m freestyle back in 1912. A native Hawaiian Duke shattered records while overcoming a lifetime of personal challenges. He wasn’t just a gifted athlete though, he had that wonderfully rare combination of being an incredible human being too. He was known for helping to breakdown societal barriers and is celebrated for his triumphs and philosophy of inclusion for all.
I loved the story, loved the book…but must admit I found the film disappointing. The only character I found believable was Rhys Irfan as the boat guide, an incredible performance. The rest of the acting I felt was just a bit over cooked. I found myself craving for more of the real-life footage of Diana Nyad which is interspersed within the film. Is it worth a watch? Most definitely. It might not be one of my fave things this month but it’s a story that needs to be told and will help to inspire others.
A beautifully written book about my favourite subject outside of sport. Grace Dent is one of the UK’s most famous restaurant critics and if you watch ‘MasterChef’ or currently ‘I’m a celebrity – Get me out of here’ you will know who she is. In this book she takes you on a very personal journey through her life and the relationship food has played in that journey. There were so many wonderful memories of food that related to my own childhood. Think she knocked this one out of the park if you are a food lover of a certain age.
Without doubt one of the most fascinating podcasts I’ve listened to in quite some time. Love him or hate him this is without doubt Gordon Ramsay at his most humble very best. In it he talks openly about growing up and what drove him to become the successful man he has become today. It’s a tale of someone who was born with nothing who overcame insurmountable odds through sheer drive, determination, hard work and self-belief to become one of the greatest chefs in the world. If I had teenage kids, I would make them listen to this over and over again if they really want to get anywhere in life. There are so many golden nuggets in this one for anyone, it’s brilliant.
Team out & about this month
The Team Nagi boys have been on a mission to get fit this month!
Great to see Chris O’Neill back in action once again as he kicks of his prep for The London Marathon next year. 1:53 for the Kingston Half Marathon was a superb first race of the season.
Dr Andy ‘the mountain goat’ Rogerson doing what he does best…climbing BIG hills for fun at the Tinto Hills 4.4 mile hill race with only 500m of ascent!
Tony Jarvis gets down and dirty at his first Park Run of the new season…made for it!
Tony Peach doing a bit of Arnie style posing for the crowds in between training runs at his training camp in Tenerife. He’ll need those muscles at Ironman Wales next year!