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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

CHRISTOPHE GUIARD

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

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