SWIM POSITION Q What’s the best position to be in at the start of the swim? Neil Parsons A First and foremost, the best position to start is the position that you’re most comfortable in. Regardless of anything else, if you’re not comfortable then you won’t be in a position to have your best race.
After this, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve, but my suggestion is always to start on the outside of the group. For instance, if the first turn is round to your left, start on the right hand side of the bunch. This is because everyone will gravitate towards the racing line – the shortest route around the course. If this means you have to swim an extra couple of metres but you don’t get caught in the melée, then that’s a fair trade-off.
Being at the side allows you to move forwards relatively simply. If you wait at the back but are then swimming faster than those in front, you still have to swim past kicking legs.
Finally, if you’re doing a deep-water start (as opposed to running start), kick your legs up behind you so you’re horizontal to start with. It will create your own pocket of space that no one will come in to, and means you can also get away quickly. John Wood MTB UPGRADES Q I’m doing my first tri soon but can’t afford a road bike. How can I make my mountain bike more road friendly? Martha Stevens A The first thing to do is to remove those draggy, knobbly tyres and fit some slicks, that’ll make the biggest difference to your overall speed.
If you can, lock-out the forks or even consider fitting some fully rigid ones.
They’ll be significantly lighter and you won’t waste energy bobbing up and down.
You won’t need the massive spread of gears that a mountain bike typically has on the road so fit a smaller range cassette. This will save you a bit of weight but, more significantly, the smaller jumps between gears will allow you to maintain a more even cadence.
Look at how you can make your position on the bike more aerodynamic as an upright mountain biking posture is going to cost you a lot of speed, especially into a headwind. Fit narrower handlebars or even cut down your existing ones. You can go slightly narrower than your shoulder width but this will compromise the off-road capabilities of your bike. A longer stem should also allow you to get a bit lower but can also affect off-road handling.
I’ve seen people fit aerobars to an MTB, but you’ll probably also have to adjust saddle height, saddle fore/aft and stem length to get a decent position. Totting up the financial and potential time costs from all these tweaks, a second-hand road bike could be a better option. Nik Cook MEAT VS VEG PROTEIN Q What’s better for you: meat or vegetable protein? Kate Lowry A The main differences between the protein in meat and plant foods are the range/amount of amino acids they contain and how well they’re digested.
Amino acids are the building blocks required to make muscle, skin, hair, hormones, etc. and they must reach your blood before they can be used. More of the amino acids found in animal foods than plant foods do this.
Additionally, animal proteins contain all nine essential amino acids needed for health, while some plant foods are deficient in one or more, e.g. grains lack lysine while legumes lack methionine. On this basis, meat could be considered better for you.
However, it’s perfectly possible to obtain sufficient protein for health from vegetable sources. Consume quinoa and soya regularly, as they both contain all the essential amino acids, and include a variety of different grains and legumes over the course of a day. It’s also good to aim for a slightly higher daily protein intake overall, e.g. 1.4g/kg of body weight vs 1.2g/kg for a meat eater, to allow for the reduced digestibility of plant proteins. Jo Scott-Dalgleish INTERVAL TRAINING Q Can you overdo interval training? If so, what are the signs? Hector Smith A Absolutely yes! However, we must qualify what intervals are, how to do them and the symptoms of overdoing them.
Intervals are pre-defined periods of effort within a session plan; these range from longer aerobic (70-80%HRmax), tempo to threshold (82-87%) and highintensity (87-92% HRmax) to short power sprints (e.g. 8secs peak effort). They should be planned and not just dropped in because you feel good, bored or want to beat Strava.
Interval sessions should account for around 10% of weekly volume, but I often see athletes who actually do 10-20% of their week as random speed work when their zone-1 sessions go off plan – this may be the biggest single reason why interval sessions fail to work or cause burn out.
The signs of over stretching yourself are disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, sense of humour failure, reduced libido, disturbed HRV (heart-rate variability) scores and reduced ability in high-intensity sessions.
An example of a good interval plan: over a month, Bentley and co-workers (2017) found two sessions of intervals a week (7 x 5mins @85% HRmax), complemented by all other training in zone 1 (55-80%HRmax), improved performance. Interestingly, just doing cycling intervals helped both run and bike performance. Joe Beer
The start of the swim is a daunting prospect for most triathletes, regardless of ability, but finding the right position for you from the off can make the experience much more enjoyable and, ultimately, beneficial to your overall swim performance