CTB 43: How To Stay Healthy While Travelling

For many of us, travel is a necessary part of life whether it’s for racing, work, or both. Here are some tips to help you keep training while traveling.

For many of us, travel is a necessary part of every season. Whether you’re lucky enough to travel for racing and training, or you’re just taking a standard business trip for your job, you’ll need to plan ahead and make some adjustments to stay healthy and minimise the effect on your fitness.

I once traveled on business to Brazil, New York, and back to Europe in the span of three days. Another time I flew to Europe, South Korea, Japan, and back to Europe — also in the span of three days. At both instances I was training for an IRONMAN. How did I survive such schedules and manage to integrate training into my professional life?

Here are the main challenges I’ve come across, and some ideas on how to solve them.

Crossing Time Zones

Crossing multiple time zones is a big stress to our system, and we shouldn’t ignore this fact. One rule to travel by is that your body needs one full day to adjust to each hour of time difference. In other words, if you are traveling from Europe to Hawaii, you will need 12 days to fully adjust to the new rhythm of day and night.

So what do you do if you don’t have 12 days to adjust to your new surroundings? I suggest you try to proactively shift your internal clock by going to bed and getting up progressively earlier or later, depending on which direction you’re traveling. When you’re on the plane, adjust your watch to the time of your final destination and start sleeping and eating according to the new time zone right away.

When crossing a small number of time zones (three to five hours) traveling westward, train at midday or early in the evening. This will help your body synchronise to the new time zone and keep you awake. After an eastward flight, train in the early evening, and avoid prolonged (more than one hour) naps during the daytime.

For emergencies, and especially in the context of business travel, when you need to be fully present during important meetings, you can try light therapy glasses (like AYO), which mimic natural sunlight and can help you feel more awake.

Staying Healthy

Congested, air-conditioned airports and planes are perfect incubators for all sorts of viruses, which can easily take hold when your body is stressed. One way to bolster your defenses is to stay hydrated and eat fresh, vitamin-packed food (unlike the packaged fare typically found on planes). Not only do airplane meals typically fail to satisfy a hungry athlete with a fast metabolism, but they often lack the nutrients you need to be at your best when you step off the plane. Make sure to pack these quick items to stay healthy when traveling:

  1. Keep your bike bottle handy — you can refill it to stay hydrated. I recommend adding a low-calorie hydration tab (for example, a Precision Hydration 500 tab) to your water to replace lost salts.

  2. Pack energy bars, fruit, nuts, and peanut butter sandwiches in your travel bag. This will help you eat small snacks and avoid big meals. Arriving somewhat hungry and having a good meal at your destination, according to the new time zone, will help you acclimate.

  3. I always travel with my favourite tea, some ground coffee, and a small French press to keep my caffeine routine consistent. There’s nothing worse than trying to hunt down decent coffee in a new place when you have jet lag!

  4. Pack a microwaveable container, a set of cutlery, and a Swiss knife (in your checked bag, if flying). You’ll always be able to prepare a relatively healthy meal even if you’re stuck in under-equipped accommodations.

  5. Keep a small bottle of hand sanitiser in every bag. Think about the surfaces you and a million other passengers touch — handles, touch screens, tables, etc. When traveling, you really can’t disinfect your hands enough!

  6. Another travel must is a buff, scarf, or a facemask (for the brave). Covering your nose and mouth can save you from the dangers of a coughing neighbour, and keep you warm on a cold plane.

Adjusting to New Climates

Humans are not ostriches — we, unfortunately, are not able to match our body temperature to the environment. Be sure to dress properly (several layers, if it’s cold) and avoid long exposures to temperatures drastically warmer or colder than home, especially at the beginning of the trip.

You will also need to be aware of local weather peculiarities. For example, a very hot day in Africa is always followed by a very cold night — when the sun goes down, the temperature can drop 20 degrees within an hour, which makes it easy to catch a bad cold. To be aware of such weather traps, make sure to read up on the local climate before you travel.

Balancing Training with Work

Travelling, sleepless nights, first impressions, and long meetings all add up, so tell your coach in advance about any upcoming business travel. The reality is that you will probably need to decrease your training volume, but with some planning, you can still maintain a positive trajectory.

In my coach training library, I have a special folder labeled “travel training” for my executive athletes. It contains various treadmill sessions like accelerated runs, hill repeats, and power endurance. If they have access to a hotel gym, I recommend “cardio party” sessions with a mix of different cardio machines as well. If not, I have them do strength and conditioning sessions, with bodyweight only, which can be done in a hotel room.

The important thing is not to push your training if you feel truly fatigued. Sometimes it is better to sleep an additional hour, than further suppress your already suppressed immune system. Travelling is stress, and you might even need a recovery week following your travel week to fully recover!

Blending Sport and Culture

No matter where you travel for business, training, or racing, do not forget to be an explorer and adventurer — travel for new experiences, discover new cultures, nature, animals, and plants. Travelling is the ultimate education, and by reading good travel guides and blogs beforehand you can get a sense of local culture and highlights. Do not forgo this opportunity and take some time, if only a couple of hours on a busy trip, to experience local sights. You can do it on your morning run, or combine it with a meeting or a social outing with colleagues and friends. Don’t forget to be open to meet like-minded people as well.

For example, on a morning jog in Rio de Janeiro, I bumped into a local triathlon club who was swimming at the lagoon at Fort de Copacabana and they invited me to join their training (which was a ton of fun).


While jogging on the Bund of Shanghai, I joined a group of smiling locals practicing tai chi.

You can also go for a recovery walk after the race: for example, walk in the footsteps of Cézanne after the 70.3 race in Aix-en-Provence, or take a boat on the lake of Kärnten or Zürich after an IRONMAN race.


Being a fit person, you should always run or hike to key sights, like running on the High Line trail in New York, running and hiking up Table Mountain in Cape Town, or exploring by bike on a city tour. 


CTB 42: Why DNF is sometimes a better option

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There are many mantras, stories, myths and legends about not giving up. This the material heroes are made of. You get into a difficult situation and you try harder, you suffer, you struggle, you persevere and finally you win! You cross that finish line, you summit that peak, get the medal or cross the Antarctica solo and unsupported. You become a superhuman and a role model for kids and adults alike around the world and for generations to come.

However, being a superman or a superwoman does not only mean being a heroic and also slightly desperate optimist. Sometimes being a hero means being brutally honest with yourself and super realistic about your chances of continuing, finishing, summiting or simply surviving. It takes courage to say “I have to stop” and to turn around. Too many lives have been lost on Everest to irrational optimism and faulty assumptions about own ability, speed and elements.

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DNF sucks and hurts, no question about it. But there are benefits to it too. They are not eminently visible in the moment but they will surface after some time. It is like bad events in life: they are horrible in the moment they happen, but mostly turn out to be the best things that ever happened to you. Why? Because they build your character and open up new doors. It is really tough to believe when it happens to you, when you sit crying or puking on the side of the race course – but it is actually good for you! As a friend of mine says “it is better when something good starts badly, than the other way around”.

So what are the benefits of DNF?

1. No (further) self-destruction. This is self-evident. Racing an ultra-endurance event is an extreme experience and is always a walk on the edge. Maybe also not the healthiest thing to do too. But if you are well prepared and race smart it is an amazing experience. When things go wrong however and your body is in too much pain, or your systems shut down, you need to be brave and stop. Your health and your life are of highest priority. It is great to explore your limits (best done in training) – this is   how you also develop awareness of your body and all it signals – and to define the lines not to cross. There is a difference between leveraging your mental and emotional strength to overcome low points (see my previous article “How to build your ability to dig deeper in competition https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/build-your-ability-to-dig-deep-in-competition/ and crossing that line putting your health at  risk. By racing smart and listening to your body you will know the difference – and will not cross the line of no return.

2. Deeper learning – your temporary depression and the amount of tears the days after the DNF might be deeper than after a great race - yes, there is a known phenomenon of a “post-win blues” and emptiness, which happens when athletes lose sense of purpose after a great win or personal achievement. But no matter how much it hurts in the moment – you will come out stronger on the other side. Because you will spend more time exploring why this happened to you than in the event of a successful race. You will do deeper thinking about key drivers behind the event and you will come up with ideas for how to race better. You will expose the key factors leading to the DNF event and you might also discover your “blind spots”. These are the insights about your behaviors, feelings, thinking and judgement heuristics that are neither known to you nor to others. Reframing the Johari window pictured below, these are the blinds spots about yourself in relation to racing. You will take these learnings with you for your training and your next race – so you can have a better one next time!

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3.             Better next race – Yes, DNF can make you a better athlete. Based on your deeper learnings, you will approach your next race differently. You will know yourself better and will be aware of factors (and combinations of factors) which negatively affect your performance. It can be around pacing, nutrition, elements of your mental and emotional state. Your “blind” area will get smaller and your skills and experience will expand.

With all that being said, is DNF-ing actually better (or worse) than DNS or finishing DFL (dead f´´´´´´´ last)? This is an on-going debate. And here is my perspective on it, starting with the latter. Fact is, in some races being the last one to cross the finish line is actually celebrated and even awarded. If you come in at the finish line of an Ironman just a couple of seconds before the final cut off, you are greeted by champions, get extra loud cheering and even fireworks at the end of the race. In an Olympic marathon, which normally finishes with the lap at the Olympic stadium, the last runner gets standing ovations. And being the “lanterne rouge” (the red lantern) at the Tour de France is actually a prize which cyclists compete for. There were cases in previous tours of cyclists hiding under bridges to get more time in and to come DFL in Paris. You will find the whole distinguished list of all “lanternes rouges” on Wikipedia.

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As for DNS, well they say “the most important things in life is to show up”. I however believe (and my mantra is) is that you want to show up “prepared, motivated and eager to win”. So, it is about the quality of your “showing up”, not its quantity. If you are not prepared and not motivated to give your best – or even worse, if you are sick or your family needs you – you better stay at home.  This call requires sound reasoning, realistic thinking and putting things into bigger perspective. There will be another race and you can buy the bib for it – but you cannot buy health or love.

And a final word on DNF, especially for those who look up to the pros. Pros DNF all the time. For example, in the 2017 Kona race, 7 pro men and 6 pro women quit and in 2018, with the best weather conditions ever, 6 pro men and 6 pro women DNF-ed. Learning their lessons and coming out better on the other side! Just like you, should DNF ever happen in your life.


CTB 41: Build your ability to Dig Deeper in Competition

Everyone trains, but in endurance events what really differentiates the winners from those who falter is their mental toughness. No endurance race is a walk on a cloud—in each and every race you will face a low point. You may be low on energy, water, concentration, or maybe you will cramp or have a technical problem. Maybe the weather conditions will suddenly change. But if you have mentally prepared for adversity, you can deal with it effectively, get back on track, and get to that finish line!

You may think some people just have a higher pain threshold, or were born to suffer, but that’s simply not true! Mental toughness and pain tolerance can be trained, and with practice, you can gain control over your emotional responses to challenges. Here we’ll go into some methods for training mental toughness and mastering difficult situations in your races.

Don’t Expect to Do in Competition What You Can’t Do in Training

You can’t do in training what you can’t do in competition—that’s why your training has to be tougher than your race. Of course, we don’t mean all the time, but you do have to consciously create training sessions that will break you down physically and mentally, so you’ll be ready to deal with similar circumstances in a race.

The principle of repetition is an excellent tool here—many repeats of the same drill (i.e. intervals) will cause fatigue similar to a race, especially if they need to be performed at a certain speed or heart rate. 

There are many ways to design intervals with increasing degrees of difficulty: use hills and weights, or turn your breaks into cross-training opportunities with push-ups or core work. An element of surprise works well too—the famous triathlon coach Brett Sutton, who trained both an Olympic champion and a multi-time IRONMAN World Champion, used to surprise his athletes with an early morning marathon in the mountains instead of breakfast!

The point is not just to survive the tough training, but to be aware of what is happening in your body and mind when faced with a challenge. What are the conversations in your mind? Do you negotiate with yourself? Do you motivate yourself with performance objectives? Do you tune out the pain or focus on it? An awareness of what’s going on in your head and what’s working for you in training will become an invaluable tool on race day.

Leveraging Tough Conditions

For many of us, one of the toughest challenges in endurance training is the fact that we do an outdoor sport and are therefore subjected to the elements. Varying temperatures, wind, rain, snow, darkness, etc. all provide excellent excuses for postponing or canceling a session. 

But how often is race day nice and warm, with blue sky, sunshine, and no wind? Lucky you if it happens, but if not, you have a problem on your hands. We need to train on the bike in strong winds, learn to descend mountain passes in heavy rain, swim in waves, and run in the heat, rain, or snow. When you’re mentally strong, the elements become your friends—this is the beautiful thing about outdoor sports. Training in any weather will give you a huge mental advantage on race day.

Consider the PPPPP (Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance) principle. In months of training, you’ll build a mental library of tough situations you managed to overcome. This will help you immediately recognize a challenge when it happens so you can stay calm and address it. This library will serve you when you start feeling tired, when you cramp, and when your body starts to come up with all those good reasons urging you to stop.

Again, be sensible — please do not go crazy and go running in a thunderstorm to get hit by lightning, and please stay indoors if it’s below freezing outside. You don’t want to get back with pneumonia or exercise-induced asthma! 

Practice in Daily Life

Our daily life outside of our training can also give us some tough situations to work through. In order to overcome them, we need to be emotionally stable, positively motivated, and mentally focused. In other words, we need to maintain that mentally strong race day mindset. When you have a challenge at work or in your personal life, use the opportunity to apply the same mental approach as you would in training, until positive patterns become second-nature. 

Everything in life is interconnected, and if we’re enlightened enough to recognize the relevant patterns, we can use them to our advantage! 

Have a Race Day Mantra

You are at the starting line of your big event—what’s going on in your head? Do you visualise racing in control and crossing the finish line smiling? Are you afraid of the unknown challenges ahead? Maybe you feel a little of both, it’s common to feel positively motivated while also being afraid of the race. 

I always recommend coming to the starting line prepared, motivated to win (first of all against yourself), and with respect for the race. Respect is important here because it will protect you from taking unnecessary risks, and will help you manage your energy and resources. You will always have a good day if you race with intellect, passion, and heart. 

My favourite mantra before the start of any race is I am here because I am prepared, I love it, and I am willing to win.” Finding your own mantra can help you stay focused on your goals for the day. When things get hard, you can start chanting it to yourself silently (or not), for an extra dose of focus and motivation. 

Overcoming Low Points
As mentioned above, in every race you will face a low point at some time. When this moment comes, use the following algorithm:

  • Acknowledge how you feel and what is happening. There’s no need to dig into the question of “why?”—we don’t need mental research at this point. We simply need recognition of the situation so we can quickly respond.

  • Navigate the mental minefield. Classify the situation using your mental library of tough situations. Apply the tested tool of dealing with this type of situation. Use visuals, mantras, words, rewards, etc. — whatever proved to work for you in your tough training sessions.

  • Keep your mind quiet. When it gets tough (really tough), sometimes it’s almost impossible to come up with positive thoughts and visuals. This is the time to try to simply be quiet and wait.

  • Be patient, because it will take a little while to get back on track. As an example, if you feel tired and it’s a question of energy balance, you’ll need to eat, drink, reduce the pace, and wait until the sugar gets into your bloodstream. Just be patient and stay cool—you will feel better.

  • When you are back on track, congratulate yourself for overcoming the low point. Enjoy the rest of the race, repeat the mantras and little words to yourself, and do your best to control the chatter of your mind.

  • Break down the distance ahead of you into small segments and go to the next segment (then to the next one, and so on). Every little step brings you closer to the finish line.

  • Race with gratitude and know exactly why you are out there—the higher your purpose is, the more energy you will be able to source from your spirit.

We’re All Stronger Than We Think
Once you cross the finish line, you might be euphoric or dissatisfied, feeling post-race blues, or happy dancing. Whatever mood you experience, it will not last long. Several days to a week will pass by and you will get back to your steady-state level of happiness and your usual mood and daily routines.

In the first few days of recovery, make some time to write down (yes, please write down) what happened during the race. What challenges did you face and how did you deal with them? What type of inner chatter and self-rationalising conversations did you come up with? Did you use any mantras or visuals? Did you come up with any special power words? Write it all down while it’s fresh, and save it for the next tough training session and your next race. 
Remember, we are all stronger than we think! We can (and should) do things that really scare us from time to time. Come up with a “hairy and audacious goal” for yourself—it should be big and challenging enough to where you aren’t sure you can achieve it. Big discomfort is the area where growth happens—do it right and you will build your confidence and mental strength for races to come. 

CTB 40: Training in Stellenbosch, South Africa - pure bliss!

Why Stellenbosch?

With awesome training facilities, fantastic weather, the inverse seasonality of the Southern hemisphere, great food (and wine) and relative affordability, Stellenbosch is the established destination of choice for athletes. Triathletes, runners, swimmers, cyclists and rugby players come to Stellenbosch to train during the European winter. Also, American athletes are discovering Stellenbosch as a more exotic, versatile and fun alternative to their local training Mecca in Boulder, Colorado.

In December-January, expect temperatures between 25 and 30C, 10-11 hours of sunshine every day and your training to be pure bliss! This is how your training day could look like:

You will leave early morning for a bike ride, rolling through vineyards and undulating plains of Swartlands, climbing the Franschhoek mountains or enjoying the views along the ocean. You can stop at a local coffee shop or a “mall” for a refreshment and most vineyards welcome cyclists too. If you are used to cycling with music or audiobooks, you should really leave those earphones at home because you will not want to be distracted from the breathtaking views or spotting an occasional zebra or ostrich.

After the bike ride, you might want to cool down with an active recovery swim at the 50m open-air pool of University of Stellenbosch. You will most probably have one of 10 lanes just for yourself, since all the students will be on their long summer break. The water is so nice and swimming under the blue sky in December (and equalising your cycling tan) is such a pleasure, that you will not want to end your swim.

And to finish your day, why not go for a sunset run or hike on the soft grounds of the Stellenbosch mountain park among protea bushes? For a faster session, you can choose the newly upgraded track, also on the University grounds, right next to the pool. And if you are in a romantic mood and not alone, take a bottle of Gatorade (or better, local wine) and hike to the top of the Stellenbosch mountain to experience an unforgettable African sunset.

But it is not only the training, in top facilities and surrounded by the beauty of nature, that makes Stellenbosch so unique. It is what the area (and South Africa in general) has to offer in addition to your training that will make your stay truly unforgettable.

First, it is the local food - fresh, innovative and very affordable. And local wines - Stellenbosch vineyards produce some of the finest in the world. Go for wine tasting in one of 121 Stellenbosch vineyards and be surprised how good even the cheapest of their wines are. Do not miss the opportunity to dine in one of the fine restaurants too. For the price of a main course in Europe, you will be served a 3-course gourmet menu, paired with wines.

Second, it is the open, young and welcoming culture of the University town of Stellenbosch, full of cafés, restaurants, bars and arts shops. Unlike on your usual camp in La Santa or Playitas, you can actually make contact with local people and talk about something not related to triathlon.

And finally, it is the opportunity to combine your training with visiting more of diverse South Africa: from cosmopolitan Cape Town with its iconic Table Mountain (yes, as a fit triathlete you can run or hike up it and avoid tourist crowds at the cable car) to the many National Parks where you can look for the “big five” or an elusive aardvark.

I could write a book about amazing South Africa – but I suggest you better go experience it yourself! Start with our 1 week training camp in Stellenbosch in December – and have the vacation of a lifetime!

Our services for you:

We have hand-picked and tested everything we’re offering you in terms of training facilities and logistics, so you can have the experience described above.

The accommodation is reserved in two small historic homes, with stylish and spacious self-catering rooms, within 700m of the pool, stadium and gym of Stellenbosch University and close to the famous Dorp street, with its cafés, restaurants and shops.

We will have a vehicle to accompany us on our rides and Coach Tatjana will guide each training session and provide individual training and technique guidance.

There will also be wine tasting and a gala-dinner organised for all participants in one of the amazing vineyards around Stellenbosch, so you can experience this part of local life with us too.

So, the spirit of this camp is to train, improve, learn, explore, make new friends and enjoy your time!

Hurry up since accommodation and flights are selling out fast!

Booking deadline: May 20th

Package price: CHF 1900 / EUR 1690 p.P.

Includes: self-catering accommodation in a shared double-room (8 nights), guided training, access to the pool and gym, wine tasting and one gala-dinner.

Please request pricing for special arrangements (airport transfers, individual occupancy, accompanying non-athletes, sightseeing …)

We look forward to welcoming you at our training camp!

All questions and booking confirmation to coachtatjana@gmail.com

CTB 39: How to Turn Your Winter Training Blues into Bliss


If you live above 40th parallel north, you have (more or less) cold winters. For summer outdoor sports such as triathlon, cycling and running this represents a challenge. But does it have to? Do cold weather and short days really mean winter training blues—or can we see them as an opportunity for winter bliss?

Being a rational optimist, I vote for winter bliss. Here are seven excellent reasons why.

Become a stronger and more versatile athlete

Cross-country skiing gives you both specific and unspecific muscular load, serious endurance, and the endless bliss of gliding through shining winter landscapes. It is also the sport that has produced the most VO2max records because of its high intensity and volume. Cross county skiing uses the most muscles of any sport (an estimated 600 out of the approximately 650 we have) especially targeting the main mover muscles we use to create propulsion in cycling and running. I equate 20km of cross-country to 80-100km on the bike—with double the fun! Learn how to skate really well and your winter will never be the same. (And try biathlon if you are more adventurous).


Apart from cross-country skiing, there are other wonderful winter sports such as ice skating, ski touring and even snowshoeing, which will all build your summer legs and lay the FUNdamentals for über-endurance. Speed skating and track cycling are particularly complementary sports in terms of physical requirements—though both can be done indoors during the cold season. Most of the rare examples of the same athletes winning medals in Summer and Winter Olympics are among speed skaters competing in track cycling—if you want to learn what it really means to have burning quads, try speed skating.

Build strength with power workouts

Wintertime is a great time to work on your maximum power and overall strength, both indoors and outdoors. In just 8-10 weeks you can become a significantly stronger athlete with 1-2 weekly sessions of progressive strength & conditioning at the gym. You’ll also increase your range of motion and reduce your risk of injury for the upcoming spring training load. Also try introducing power elements to your outdoor sessions, like running and jumping stairs; adding squat jumps, push ups, dips etc to your running workouts; or swimming with paddles, parachutes and sponges. You can also get a decent power workout by simply slogging through deep snow.


Build technique with slow sessions

Making a perfect movement slowly is infinitely more difficult than doing the same movement quickly. Have you ever tried to swim 25m with fewer than 10 strokes? Or do a very-very-very slow push-up, going down on 10 counts and then up on 10 counts? What about pushing a huge gear with below 50 cadence on your bike trainer? Slow can be painfully beautiful. Simply decompose your key moves, isolate their parts and execute them really slowly. Then add some load to it. It will build your technique and power in a very special way. Sometimes we have to slow down to get faster, and the best time to do it is in winter.

Push pedals on your turbo trainer

Turbo training is a highly effective and efficient training tool. In less than an hour you can have the highest quality workout—and a puddle of sweat under you. You can watch a Netflix series, TED podcasts, listen to the music or race against others using Tacx, Zwift or Sufferfest apps. No traffic lights, full visibility of power output and gradient—it is all so good that some people get addicted. However I recommend having a plan here too. Set an objective for your FTP, pre-program power workouts that you want to be able to complete by end of February (like 5x8min at 300 Watt) and start now.

Plus, there’s no need to end your turbo training come spring. For time-crunched athletes, nothing beats the efficiency of a turbo trainer. Apart from having a coach, this is also one of the best investments you can make into your training.


Do a Holiday Training Camp at home

Winter holidays represent a major danger for our racing weight. Between the inevitable end of year stress, seemingly-endless Christmas parties and important family commitments, it is very difficult and actually quite unnecessary to keep an iron discipline with your diet.

So go with the flow for a little while but maintain loose control—and then show some will and train like a pro for the week between Christmas and New Years, when your schedule will hopefully be a little more flexible. A 500km cycling challenge or 20km of swimming in a week will keep you sharp on your mission for your summer goals, even if you over-indulge a little over the holidays.

Plan your season

This is a perfect time to review the season, derive key learnings, set new objectives, and sign up for races. When setting objectives, try to really think long-term and imagine where you want to be in 5 or 10 years—and which role sport should play in your life. Set both achievement and process goals, i.e. define not only what but also how you want to achieve your objectives, as well as the quality of life you want to have.

Just please don’t get carried away and sign up for too many races. It is all too easy to forget the fatigue and logistical issues of racing from the comfort of the living room sofa. Find something that you can look forward to, a stretch goal that maybe even scares you a bit, but not the one that completely terrifies you. This can be a fun process and the clarity achieved at the end of it will give you a lot of power.

Get your equipment ready and donate your stuff

I’m guessing we all have too much sports stuff, and together we could likely equip several teams with the retired clothes and gear we have at home. Clean and keep the stuff you need, then clean and donate all the rest. It will make your logistics easier—and someone else maybe a bit happier.

Instead of dreading the cold dark months, this year look forward to your opportunities for winter bliss and you’ll start your spring races a happier, stronger, smarter athlete and human being!


CTB 37: Winter Blues or Winter Bliss?


If you live above 40th parallel north, you have more or less cold winters. For summer outdoor sports such as triathlon, cycling and running this represents a challenge and athletes have been historically known to escape to southern training camps. But do they have to? Do cold weather and short days really mean winter training blues - or can we see them as an opportunity for winter bliss?

Being a rational optimist, I vote for winter bliss and here are 7 reasons why.

1. Have fun and become a stronger and more versatile athlete with winter sports. Cross-country skiing is the sport that produced all VO2max records because of its high intensity and volume and because it uses the most muscles of any sports – estimated 600 out of the ca. 650 we have. It includes serious load of the main mover muscles we use to create propulsion in triathlon, cycling and running. It is both specific and unspecific muscular load, serious endurance training and the endless bliss of gliding through frozen nature and shining winter landscapes that awaits you on the cross-country trails. I equate 20km of cross-country to 80-100km on the bike – with double fun! Learn how to skate really well and your winter will never be the same. Apart from cross-country skiing, there are such wonderful winter sports as ice skating, ski touring and even snow shoeing, which will all build your summer legs and lay the FUNdament for your über-endurance. For example, speed skating and cycling are completely complementary sports in terms of physical requirements. The only examples of the same athlete winning medals in Summer and Winter Olympics are among speed skaters competing in sprint and time trial events in track cycling. If you want to learn what it means to have burning quads, try speed skating.

2. Build strength with power workouts. Wintertime is the time to work on your maximum power and overall strength – both indoors and outdoors. In 8 to 10 weeks with 1 or 2 gym sessions per week of  deliberate practice and periodized and progressive strength & conditioning program you can become a significantly stronger athlete, increase your range of motions and reduce your injury risk for the upcoming training load. You can also introduce power elements to your outdoor sessions, like running and jumping stairs, adding squat jumps, push ups, dips etc to your running workouts, swimming with paddles, parachutes and sponges and simply walking through deep snow.

3. Build technique with slow sessions. Making a perfect movement slowly is infinitely more difficult. Have you ever tried to swim 25m with fewer than 10 strokes? Or do a very-very-very slow push up, going down on 10 counts and then up on 10 counts? Pushing a huge gear with below 50 cadence on your bike trainer? Slow is painfully beautiful. Decompose your key moves, isolate their parts and execute them really slowly. Then add some load to it. It will build your technique and power in a very special way. Sometimes we have to slow down to get faster. Best time to do it is in winter.

4. Push pedals on your turbo trainer. Turbo training is a highly effective and efficient training tool. In less than an hour you can have the highest quality workout – and a puddle of sweat under you. You can watch Netflix series, TED podcasts, listen to the music or race against others using Tacx, Zwift or Sufferfest apps. No traffic lights, full visibility of power output and gradient - it is all so good that some people get addicted. I recommend having a plan here too. Set an objective for your FTP, pre-program power workouts that you want to be able to complete by end of February (like 5x8min at 300 Watt) and start now. By the way, no need to end your turbo training come spring. For time crunched athletes, nothing beats the efficiency of a turbo trainer. Apart from having a coach, this is also one of the best investments you can make into your training.

5. Do a Christmas Training Camp at home. Winter holidays represent a major danger for our racing weight – between the inevitable end of year stress, seemingly endless Christmas parties and important family commitments it is very difficult, almost impossible and actually quite unnecessary to keep an iron discipline for the quantity and quality of calories and bubbles consumed. So go with the flow for a little while, keep loose control – but then show some will and train like a pro for a week which you hopefully have more or less free between Christmas and New Year. A 500km cycling challenge or better 20km of swimming in a week will keep you sharp on your mission for your summer goals.

6. Plan your season. This is a perfect time to review the season, derive key learnings, set new objectives, plan and sign up for races. When setting objectives, try to think long-term and imagine where you want to be in 5 or 10 years – and which role sport should play in your life. Set both achievement and process goals, i.e. define not only what but also how your want to achieve them and what quality of life and experience your want to have. Just please don’t get carried away and sign up for too many races – it is all too easy to forget the fatigue and logistical issues of racing from the comfort of the living room sofa. Find something that you can look forward to, a stretch goal that maybe even scares you a bit – but not the one that completely terrifies you. This can be a fun process and the clarity achieved at the end of it will give you a lot of power.

7. Get your equipment ready and donate your stuff. I guess we all have too much sports stuff and everyone could easily equip several teams with the clothes and gear we have at home. So I suggest you do that! Clean and keep the stuff you need – and clean and donate all the rest. It will make your logistics easier – and someone else maybe a bit happier.

So look forward to winter bliss and come out of winter a stronger and smarter athlete and human being!

CTB 36: Strategic Recovery

My Russian cycling coach used to say: “When it hurts, it grows”. Then he would load more weights to the dumbbell and push me to jump up stairs with it… Survival training was it – painful and effective, but with a high risk of injury short-term and burn-out long-term.

Yes, the truth is, we all have to go into the zone of discomfort during training. This discomfort – but not pain - leads to physiological adaptation to the training load. It really has to get worse before it gets better. First, we need to train and our form declines - we know it because we feel the fatigue. Then we rest and during this recovery phase our organism processes the stress. It repairs the micro damages in muscle tissues and replenishes the energy stores – and when doing so, it always “overshoots” to make sure it is prepared for the next load. This principle is called “overcompensation” and it is the very reason why consistent, intentional and progressive training leads to improvements in form and fitness level. 

The key two conditions for over-compensation to take place are:

  1.  Individual and progressive training load (=stimuli) over a long period of time
  2. Adequate and sufficient recovery.

Recovery is the most underestimated subject in sports science (and, unfortunately, practice), so let us focus on it. Let us call it “strategic recovery” in order to further highlight its critical importance not only to the form and fitness development of an athlete, but also to her health – physical, emotional and mental.

Strategic recovery should be seen on three levels: long-, mid- and short-term.

Long-term recovery is about the total training year and includes planning of key training phases and priority races. The “off-season” is critical to provide full recovery physically and mentally – it cannot be cut short or sabotaged by secret undercover training by too eager athletes. Everyone needs to take minimum 2 weeks of total rest with zero training and 2 to 4 weeks more of very unspecific, low volume, “go with the flow” exercising.

You should always plan your season around your A race(s) and always include a week of rest and one or two weeks of active recovery after long endurance events, like Ironman or (fast) Marathon. Take enough time to recover, be strategic and sensible about the total number of races, their role and importance – this will ensure your longevity in the sport. Like Roger Federer or Sister Madonna Buder.

Mid-term recovery is centered on your training phases and could look like this:

  • Transition Period (8 weeks):  November – December (incl. 1-2 weeks Christmas break)
  • Building the Base I (10 weeks): January – mid March
  • Building the Base II (8 weeks): mid March – May 1st
  • Pre-Competition (6 weeks): May – mid June
  • Competition I (6 weeks): mid June – August 1st
  • Re-Build (3-4 weeks): August
  • Competition II (3-4 weeks): September
  • Off-Season (4 weeks): October.

Each training phase should consist of several 2:1 or 3:1 meso-cycles, with 2-3 weeks of progressive load, followed by a recovery week, when volume goes down by ca. 25% and intensity by up to 50%. This structure allows proper recovery even in the toughest training phases. If your sports watch is telling you that you are “Detraining” or being “Unproductive” in your recovery week, please do ignore it. You are being very productive – in your recovery!

CTB36 Garmin.jpg


Short-term recovery is all about your training day. This is the most fundamental part of recovery and it is as important as training itself. We have to be strategic and intentional about both the training and the recovery and plan both in sync. Here are main recovery tactics of passive and active recovery:

Passive recovery:

1. Hydration – Replenishing loss of fluid should be your first priority after a training session. It actually starts during the training. Make sure that you don’t go deep into dehydration. Being 1-2% dehydrated (or having lost 1-2% of fluid reserves in your blood plasma) is OK short-term but it can already result in some loss of performance. Make sure that you always stay hydrated and use enriched drinks vs plain water. Some sugar, salt and magnesium should be present in your sports drink – to replenish the key minerals lost through sweating. Severe dehydration is a serious health and even life threat. Plentiful and fast hydration after the physical activity is the fastest way to recovery.

2. Nutrition – Nutrition does not only provide fuel for your workouts, it is also a key recovery tool. By eating balanced, plant-based food, you help your body cells to restore and re-build themselves. Clean, predominantly plant-based food provides the perfect combination of carbohydrates, vitamins and amino-acids. My favorite is a vegan risotto – true soul food, especially during cold seasons.



3. Naps. Strategic short naps, 10-15min long and taken after an intensive training session, can save your day. Especially after long and tough sessions, you can use naps to switch off and switch on.

4. Sleep. This is the most critical daily recovery strategy – ditch two nights of quality sleep in a row and your training quality decreases significantly while your risk of infection and injury increases exponentially. When you sleep, all kinds of good things happen in your body: mini-tears in muscles are cured and repaired, energy stores are replenished, the nervous system rests. So, “it grows when it rests”. Never sacrifice your sleep for training. Sometimes it is better to sleep than to train – please listen to your body! Your need for sleep is positively correlated with the following factors: training volume and intensity, your age and training history and also alcohol consumption. For each extra 50 TSS a day – or a glass of wine – or 10 years – you need 1 hour more sleep. This “rule” is based on 20 years of observations – on my athletes and myself.

5. Massage. If possible, get a sports massage every week, ideally on your rest day (typically Monday). Or use a black roll to loosen your muscles and open the fascia. This is one of the best ways to prevent overuse and overload injuries.

6. Cryotherapy. This is a radical but increasingly popular method of total recovery, which many professional athletes (and Hollywood celebrities) are using nowadays. Cryotherapy was designed to treat a variety of tissue damage by using extremely cold temperatures of below -100C. Full body treatment is done in a special cold chamber and lasts only 1-2 minutes. Check out if there is a cryo center in your city. Or you can always use a less extreme version, which is an ice bath or a simple ice pack. Apply an ice pack to where it hurts, and it normally gets better.

Active recovery:

1. Light active recovery training – Zone 1 “cappuccino rides” that are max 90min long and are a fun and social way to easy up your tired legs and get the blood flowing. Hop on your bike (you can wear your sneakers!) and pedal easily to the next gelato place. Get your gelato or cappuccino there, chat with people and pedal back. Like a tourist in Toscana.

2. Fascia training (black roll) – use a black roll as part of or instead of stretching to massage the fascia. Fascia is the connecting tissue, primary collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses and separates muscles from other internal organs. The black roll will also serve as a light drainage for your muscles. Do ca. 10min of rolling every day to get the full benefit of it.

3. Yoga and dynamic stretching – this is not only a very good exercise to ensure suppleness of your muscles and to keep the optimal range of motion, but also a spiritual practice to train your emotional and mental stability. Combine it with deep abdominal breathing, relaxation and meditation. Train your “internal voice” to be your motivator and coach (and a drill sergeant for some) on race day.

4. Contrast shower – use “hot-cold” shower for your key muscle groups, 3-4 times, to stimulate the recovery process and flush out lactic acid. Or, especially after a tough run or ride, just stand up to your knees in cold water (lake or river or your bath tab) for several minutes.

Here is the perfect “train-recover” procedure for your key training session or a double-training day:

1. Train. At the end of the session, do a short, 10-15min active, low-intensity cool-down. Stretch lightly. If the session was a really tough one, like an interval track running, then just do the cool-down jog. Do not stretch your already heavily loaded muscles due to the increased risk of injury.  

2. Change into dry clothes, hydrate with water or low carb drinks and have a small recovery snack within 30min after the session end. This snack should contain ca. 200kCal of energy and be a mix of protein and carbohydrates, for example:

  • 150gr of full-fat plain yogurt with a small banana or some other fruit
  • Recovery smoothie: 1 celery stick, 1 banana, 1 tbsp protein powder, wheatgrass, ice, and water. You can also add some cordyceps mushroom powder for an extra boost, especially if you are going for a 2nd training session later in the afternoon. I can also recommend other mushroom powders – a true source of power!  - such as chaga, lion´s mane or any mushroom mix.
  • A handful of nuts and dried fruits.
  • Egg and whole wheat bread sandwich.

3. Shower and nap 15-20min.  If you are not sure that you will wake up after 15-20min, drink a cup of coffee before your nap. It will take exactly 15-20min for the impact of caffeine to reach your brain and to wake you up.

4. Have your main meal (lunch or dinner) within 2hrs after the training session: balanced, plant-based with 500ml of fluids for the full recovery.

Wait another 2hrs for this food to be digested, and you are ready for your 2nd session. Repeat the same procedure after your 2nd training – but do not nap and go to bed early, for at least 8 hours of sleep – to wake up stronger and younger the next day!

So, be strategic in your recovery and training. Do not torture yourself Russian coach style. Too much load will increase the recovery and can lead to injuries. Too much recovery can never hurt!  It is always better to be slightly over-recovered on race day than to be over-trained. Be smart and be Zen!

Peace & plants,

Coach Tatjana




CTB 35: One Year after “Date with Destiny” – personal transformation


Last December I attended the “Date with Destiny” seminar of Tony Robbins, the modern-era guru of personal transformation and a person with an ocean of energy, charisma, influence, NLP, and many more skills. A full year has passed since – so did anything change?

I am sure that all of us have been to trainings, workshops and seminars that were interesting and engaging and we had a feeling that we were learning something there. We might even have been taking notes in fancy notebooks we got there ….  but back into our daily jobs and busy lives, we would return to our usual routines and would not change a thing. Partly because we don’t really practice effective learning habits and a Kaizen mindset but largely because all these seminars failed to provide a compelling incentive for change, they did not create urgency of action, did not anchor the “why” for change and the required behavioral shifts deep in the psychological blueprint and nervous system.  “Date with Destiny” did all of that for me – and much more.

“Most men lead a life of quiet desperation” – so most people go to this quite expensive seminar because they want a change in their lives – sometimes specific but mostly very unspecific. They just have significant areas of serious discontent and have this feeling that “it can not be all there is” – maybe they are curious and open-minded. There were also many people there who actually did not really want to go and were not open-minded (at least in the beginning) but their suffering was so great that they overcame the gravitational pull and managed to drag themselves there. Or their loved ones made them go. In any case, getting to this seminar is already an act of destiny.

What you learn there are the skills of managing your emotional state and doing it fully consciously and purposefully. You move away from thoughts that are stopping you from getting where you want to go and from being a better version of yourself – you disassociate from these destructive patters of thinking by doing powerful and for most people cathartic exercises. The crazy thing is that you do these partly hypnotic immersions into yourself with several thousand other people in the room – and this multiplies the intensity a thousand times.

Letting go of destructive and unproductive patterns is very important. It is actually the key. Because when you do it - YOU BECOME FREE.

When you are free, you can do anything. Nothing holds you back and everything becomes easy. You just need to get into the right emotional state – and put an intentional action plan in place. Being free from unproductive, negative and even destructive patters of thinking is unbelievably liberating. It feels like dropping 200kg of weight. It feels like you are levitating. You smile all the time. And you are happy for no reason.

It still feels like that one year after the seminar. For me personally and for all the people who attended and whom I spoke with. You can actually recognize these people right away – because their eyes are sparkling and their happiness is as genuine as that of a Labrador puppy. If they had a tail, they would be wagging it all the time.

So what else happened, more specifically? Well, as you can imagine, this kind of a transformed person attracts other people. People like to be around positive, smiling, happy and loving people, right? (For the same reason they get a dog – they want unconditional love, someone who is always happy to see them and who does not judge them.). So if you become this kind of a person, wonderful things start happening to you:

  • You attract amazing people into your life
  • You get a lot of new friends
  • Your relationships improve
  • You become more mindful
  • You do more things that scare you
  • You have much more fun in life, you smile, laugh and dance more
  • You find your calling
  • You attract your soul mate
  • You do what you love.

All of that is absolutely, f*** amazing, I can tell you.  It feels like it will stick for life.

So, did YOU have a date with destiny this year? Can I help you with your transformation journey?

Be open, be curious, be brave, do things that scare you, have courage to do what you love - And your life will never be the same!

See also my blog from December 17, 2016:  http://www.coachtatjana.com/blog-1/2016/12/17/ctb-20-what-i-learned-from-tony-robbins-date-with-destiny




CTB 34: Planning your best year yet!


December - December - this busy month is about finishing projects, committing to new goals, celebrating, getting together, going on holiday and so much more. It is also about reviewing the passing year and planning and imagining the next one. Was 2017 a good year? Was it one where positive emotions ruled, learnings were abundant and you stayed healthy, active, kind and curious? Maybe it was your best year yet - but still - what would make it even better? 

I have been using the “Best-year-yet” planning process below for many years – and it has always been a very helpful exercise: intentional, reliable and fun. I would like to recommend it to everyone!

Take quality time – your best time of the day - to do it. Go step by step: spend time to reflect, be honest, bold and optimistic. Write it all down, or even better, make a poster and use images and colors to visualize your mission, values and focus areas. Print out and laminate your macro- and micro-plans (or take a photo and make it a screen saver on your phone) – and have it with you all the time. It will serve as a magic “kick-ass” reminder – and your life will never be the same!

“Best-year-yet” planning process

 Step 1: Review

  1. Start with celebration - what were my key achievements in 2017?
  2. What were the most beautiful moments of the year?
  3. What did not happen and why?

Step 2: Education

  1. What are my key lessons from 2017? What did I learn for life?
  2. What was I doing and how was I behaving when I got my best results?

 Step 3: Developing the vision for 2018 – the “Why”

  1. My key focus areas for 2018.
  2. My key values for 2018.
  3. My mission.

 Step 4: Developing the action plan – the “What”

  1.  Bringing my mission to life - What are my objectives for each of the following areas:      i) Health, ii) Finance, iii) Work, iv) Relationships, v) Soul, vi) Unforgettable emotions and events?
  2. What am I looking forward to in 2018?

 Step 5: Developing the execution plan – the “How”

  1. Macro monthly planning: what are my goals for each area every month of the year?
  2. Micro weekly planning:
  • What are the key habits and rituals that will support me in living my mission and values every day?
  • My “training plan” for the week – what am I doing every day to reach my monthly goals? 

The best is yet to come!



CTB 33: Peaking Twice

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"After the race is before the race” – this is the motto of all endurance athletes, and it is especially valid now, in autumn, when everybody who is not racing in Kona, is running full and half-marathons or competing on trails and MTBs. Why? There are 3 main reasons:

1) If the "A" race of the season went fantastic, you want more of these happy feelings and more ROI on your fully deserved and hard trained on form.

2) If the "A" race went so-so or turned out to be even downright disappointing, you will want to prove otherwise and look for another challenge. (I would also suggest to honestly validate your ambition and ego level)

3) Maybe you just like racing, have friends doing a local competition or you feel that nice weather and nature are calling you to compete again.

Whatever the reason and motivation, the result will be the same – a late season race where you will want to be in a very good form. Reaching a very good form again is very possible indeed and you can achieve even higher returns on your form in form of a Personal Best and a lot of fun doing something different. So how do you train to peak twice?

The above chart shows a pretty much perfect picture of one of my athletes who was training for her first half-Ironman in July (A race) and then for a marathon in October (B race). You can see a progressive build up of the form till the highlight in July, then a recovery and summer holidays drop and then again an increase in form in time for the B race. This is how it should be: in your macro training cycle, you go from general to specific training in winter and spring months. In late spring and summer you build intensity and volume progressively and very intentionally, reaching highest training scores (TSS) circa 3 weeks before your main race. The longer the race, the more focus should be on volume close to the race, while keeping a decreasing amount of intensity. Some call this training approach “reverse periodisation”, since it focuses on intensity first, in 16-10 weeks before the A race, and develops volume later,  in weeks 10-2. Whatever model you use, the maximum training stress should be reached 3 weeks before the race – or, for very experienced and fit athletes who can recover fast, 2 weeks or even 10 days before the main race. Such a week could be well over 1000 TSS and thus one of the toughest of the year. The following gradual reduction in volume and intensity and tapering bring you to the perfect form on the race day: you are fit, ready and rested!

One or better two weeks of full recovery after your main race - and you can start the cycle for the 2nd peak. In this cycle of 8 weeks, you are basically going through same training periodisation as in 6 months before your main race, but in a compressed form.

You start with 2 weeks of mini-transition period (vs. 6-10 weeks in the main season). Then you have 3 weeks of increasing intensity, where in the 3rd week the volume is getting serious and 2 weeks of volume focus. Then 1 week of tapering and you are ready! With this compressed and very focused preparation cycle, you can truly be flying in your 2nd peak race! The main condition, however, is that you are fully recovered from your main "A" race – physically, emotionally and mentally.

With the 2nd peak in the pocket, you can then ease into the off-season. This 2nd peak, with the pressure of “A” race being off and the anticipation of the rest and "doing nothing" in the off-season, can be a very sweet experience. Withthe smart preparation, you can also set a Personal Best! 


CTB 32: Transition season - or how to train till Christmas


“Champions are made in winter” - we all know that. But they are also made in the off-season, which is maybe the most underestimated part of the training cycle. Why is it so important and how to best approach it is the subject of this article.

The end of the season and the “doing nothing” phase

Most athletes will finish the season with a significant race – Ironman Hawaii in October or a late fall marathon(e.g. Chicago, New York or something local), where many will chase a PB, trying to leverage on mileage and form accumulated and earned in summer. Hopefully the last race is an ace, so you can ease into some real time off and enjoy life as a normal human being, immune to endurance and multi-sport virus. Should the race not be up to your expectations, well, then you need this break even more – most probably you over-exhausted yourself during the long months of training and racing. In any case, everyone, pros and age-groupers alike, need a quality break from their most favorite addiction, 3-4 weeks in total.

The best recipe is 2 weeks of active recovery and 2 weeks of doing almost nothing.

It does not come easy to some athletes – we are, at the end, the creatures of habit – so they get restless and all too worried that they will lose the form, put too much weight on, get lazy, and so on. Losing some form is actually desirable in this phase – if you want to build a taller building, you need to strengthen the fundament! And to do so, you need to knock down a couple of levels. By “doing nothing” we want to give all systems quality time to relax, restore and replenish. Our joints and tendons need a break, as well as our nervous system. The mental recovery is very important too – it is time to do and think something else than “swim-bike-run” and stop controlling and monitoring your form, food, HR, TSS etc. We have to step back to expand our response capacity to positive adaptation triggers and take a larger step next season! “Doing nothing” does not, of course, mean being totally sedentary. We just don’t do anything specific to our sport and we do not follow a training plan – for just 4 weeks! We go with the flow, exercise when we feel like it and we also try to move our body in different ways: we walk, rollerblade, skateboard, climb, play volleyball or just go to the sauna and spa.

Off-season - pre-season - transition season

No matter how you call it (I think transition season is the best descriptor), this is the time after your time off following the last big race of the season. It can be visualized by this simple formula:

“Last race + 2 weeks active recovery + 2 weeks of “doing nothing” -> 6-10 weeks transition season”

Transition season is about preparing you for the specific training of the main season.  It lays the overall fitness foundation and has the following objectives:

1) Improve foundational strength and stability by general training

2) Sustain and improve cardiovascular endurance

3) Improve strength & conditioning of sport-specific moving muscles

4) Develop technical skills (focus on swim and bike) and range of motion.

The strategies to achieve the above 4 objectives are the following:

1. Transition season is the functional strength season

 I am a big supporter of functional training throughout the season and recommend approaching it as 4th discipline, if you are a triathlete. Meaning, there is a periodized yearly plan for strength and condition training – with transition period being the high volume part of it. We start with general conditioning training for all big muscles groups and work on general mobility. The number of repetition is high (15-20) and load is easy. We use predominantly drills with our own weight and over time add some additional weight to our exercises. After 3-4 weeks of doing this general training, we make functional training a bit more sport-specific: we engage specific moving muscles, reduce the number of reps and increase the weight. Result is progression in strength, increased mobility, motor control and balance. 2 sessions per week of ca 50min are ideal.

2. Transition season is swim season

Foundation for the good run in triathlon is the swim. We pay for a weakness in the 1st discipline by low energy on the run. So swim, swim, swim – this will build your endurance, power and fatigue resistance – all in a low impact, injury-free way. Start with “baby-swims” – mini-sprints of 10-15 meters, many reps, build it out to longer sprints, more “cruising” intervals, swimming with paddles, “sponge”, etc. If you have any deficits in your swimming technique and form, address them now, work with a coach, go to a swim camp. Transition time is swim time – and cold and darkness outside are quite conducive to warm, well-lit swimming pools. Swim at least 3 times per week if you can. If you can, swim more. Only good things come from swimming for endurance athletes.

3. Transition season is time to play around with other sports

To prevent mental fatigue and also to add some fun to our training, we use alternative sports to work on our endurance, motor skills, balance and strength. MTB is great for max power and bike-handling skills, indoor climbing will make your core, arms and shoulders stronger – perfect for the swim. Rollerblades and skateboards are great for balance, quads and core. And if you are lucky enough to live close to snow and mountains, then cross-country (Nordic) skiing is the best alternative sport ever. It is endurance, functional training, VO2max, balance and coordination training – all in one! Did your know that VO2max records for both genders are held by Nordic skiers? One longer session of alternative sport, like 2hrs of MTB or cross-country skiing, would be ideal.


4. Transition season is time to save your running legs

Running sucks. It sucks because on average every runner has one running injury per year – from a minor tear to a serious overload injury. So we try to save our running legs for all the kms of training waiting for them in spring and summer time. Instead, we try to load running muscles by plyometric drills and to develop hip strength. It is in the hips where our true running engine is located and we need to learn how to engage it better to create propulsive running motion. We also do “dry running” in the gym, using light weights and cords to simulate running movement. And since you will be in the pool a lot, it is also a good idea to add 20mins of aqua jogging to your session. So, very little running, only short runs and progression via number of runs per week and a slight progression in their duration, with pretty much zero progression in intensity. Intensity is hidden in plyometric and functional training. You will it feel the benefits later, I guarantee it.

Enjoy your well deserved vacations from a structured training for a month – and then get back on the horse with smart, versatile and progressive transition training to set a foundation for a successful 2018 season!

You can buy my Off-Season/Transition Season plan (10 weeks) on TrainingPeaks store. Thanks!


CTB 31: The Mountain Manifesto


Here´s to the crazy ones.  

          The trail runners.

                     The ultra-endurance freaks.            

                               The human mountain goats.

The ones who can jump from stone to stone and accelerate on a steep downhill.

They don’t like asphalt. They despise city marathons. They love nature, running in forests, deserts, mountains and valleys.

They leave no traces and no trash behind. Animals come to greet them. They smell their soul mates.

You can say they are masochists. You can think they are self-destructing. You can envy their courage and wish you had the guts to run all night long. And then all day long.

They are seemingly indestructible fearless souls. Driven by passion and their endless will to test themselves, to push the limits, to walk on the edge.

They share the same physiology with the rest of the human race. But they have a different mentality. Some of them are converted flatlanders. All of them are normal people.

They change the idea of what is humanly possible.

Because only those who are crazy enough to imagine they run uphill all day, actually do it.

Run mountains – your life will never be the same!


CTB 30: If your dream does not make you suffer, you don´t have one


238km, 5500m of elevation, 4 cols, 66 switchbacks, 3769 male and 231 female finishers - this is Ötztaler cycling marathon, the toughest one-day challenge for passionate and complete cyclists. And maybe just slightly crazy ones - or as someone put it: "You really have to love cycling to do it". Yes, I do, I do love cycling - and I hope many people will fall in love with it too.

Why? Because nothing beats the pain-pleasure combination of reaching a high altitude mountain pass. You can climb several hours, one switchback after another, never seeing the end of the road. You never know what is behind the curve – and just hope that it gets flatter there, and  maybe – just maybe – there is a tiny descent…So you just keep pushing the pedals, trying to breath smoothly, doing your best to accelerate your bike by getting out of the saddle and cutting the curves. Just to get a second or two of recovery... and then push again. This is very meditative and very painful space to be in. And the only way to learn the ecstatic pleasure and relief of reaching the top by experiencing the pain of getting there. Like in real life.

Cycling mountains is dope. Official, legal, free dope. You get into cycling, you become fitter, you start cycling in mountains and you become addicted. You want more cols, more altitude meters, less fat on your body and more power in your legs. Power to weight is the magic formula in cycling. A perfect cyclist is like an ant - a tiny, light creature able to lift and carry huge weights. Uphill. 

This is what makes Ötztaler cycling marathon so extremely addictive - your get an overdose of pain and a fountain of joy. Overdose of pain comes in form of the biggest climb to Timmelsjoch (Passo del Rombo), 2505m altitude, 1821m and 29km positive uphill with average 8% and max 14%. And as if it were not enough - this giant hits you after 180km of riding over 3 cols and over 3000m of elevation already in your legs (Kühtai, Brenner and Jaufenpass). Bring it on, baby!



The Timmelsjoch climb starts in the valley, in St Leonard, where it is normally very hot (32C last Sunday) and finishes close to the glacier, with temperatures 15-20C degrees lower. It can actually snow there in summer - and it rains a lot, like it was the case last Sunday, for all 10hrs+ finishers, who got into the pouring rain with temperatures around chilly 7-8C. Climbing in rain is one thing, descending back to 1300m of Sölden is another. Carbon wheels do not really break, so if you enjoy the feeling of a free fall, you are in for a treat.

Riding such a course, whether you win or finish last, is a truly exceptional achievement – you have to be fearless and you have to be a complete cyclist. You have to be able to go the distance (200km+). You have to be able to climb for hours: long moderate cols with 6-8%, steep ramps of over 12% and also long “faux plats” of 2-3%. In Ötztaler you have them all. Then you must ace fast descending – taking switchbacks curves, jumping over cattle grids and constantly watching for cows, who like to chill out in the middle of the road.


You have to be able to ride in a group – and also push alone against the wind. You have to be extremely weather resistant and deal with all elements, as well as extreme temperatures jumps, as you change altitudes and cross weather divides in mountains. You also have to master nutrition and know when, what and how much to eat and drink to give you enough energy for a 8hrs+ ride – in a race like Ötztaler you burn between 5000 and 8000Kcal. And then you have to be a mental ninja  – you are all alone out there, totally exposed to your psyche and striped down to the very essence of your nature. Your true character shows only in extreme situations – and such a race is a perfect stage and opportunity for it.

The Latin root of word “passion” stems from passionem, which means “suffering, enduring” – and it says everything. You have to suffer for your passion. Especially, if your passion is cycling. Especially, if it is cycling cols.

If your dream does not make you suffer, you don’t have one. Maybe this is why Ötztaler´s motto is “I have a dream”. And this specific dream does make you suffer. On 66 switchbacks of cycling happiness.



CTB 29: Achilles, Porsche and Ironman Hamburg


What Achilles (tendon), Porsche (car) and Ironman (race) have in common?

Yes, they are all sporty. Yes, they are very precious and pricey to repair, maintain and participate. They all can be healthy or broken or inflamed. And yes, you can get a chronic Achilles inflammation by either training for an Ironman race – or by driving an older Porsche model with a tricky pedal box. Never knew it? Well, me neither.

Until I found it out talking to my old university friend in Hamburg last week. I raced Ironman there, slow and painful due to my inflamed Achilles, which disliked cool weather conditions and also prevented proper running training. So I was complaining about it to my friend during a post-race dinner on Monday. He said he would understand me really well and how much it hurts and is annoying at the same time - because he had the same problem with Achilles as well – from driving his older Porsche and doing the toe to heel downshifting trick! WOW!

“It is all about choices”, I thought, “and sometimes different choices lead to the same result”. He had always been into car racing, my university friend.  And I had always (and increasingly so) been into endurance foot racing. The result – Achilles tendinitis for both of us  – but also quite different fitness and car possession levels.

Everyone has a different definition of fun indeed.  Like, when you take S-Bahn (tube) in Hamburg at 5am on the race morning on Sunday, or any Sunday night/morning for that matter, you see a lot of jolly people coming back from partying on Reeperbahn – the drinking, dancing and so on district. I studied in Hamburg, trust me, I know. Now, 20 years later, I am taking this tube to race an Ironman. With my Achilles hurting. Not very sensible – but DNS is no option in my definition of fun, as much as DNF.  And such a race is always worth it. Even if it is painful. Or maybe just because of it?

Racing in Hamburg is a lot of fun indeed – and it is more difficult that you might think. You swim in a lake, located smack in the middle of city centre. Better learn not to swallow too much water swimming, since this lake has no beaches or pubic swim areas, and I guess for a reason. And better you learn how to swim in caves – because this is how it feels to swim under two very low and very wide bridges dividing the lake into the “inside” and “outside” parts. The inside part is small, dark brownish-coloured and well protected by buildings around it. The outside part is big, light brownish-colored and totally exposed to the wind. So expect choppy waters and learn to breath on both sides of your stroke.

Wet and cold you jump on the bike, which takes you on two loops with 1000m of altitude. “How come?” you ask, “Hamburg is flat!” – yes it is, and yes, it is not. You will not climb in the pure sense of climbing proper Alpine cols, and you can (and should) do whole 182km (yes, 2km of bonus), on BCR - Big Chain Ring. But you will need quite some bike-specific power endurance for what French call “faux-plat”, or “fake flat”, a seemingly insignificant but omnipresent 1-2% of positive incline on most parts of the course – in addition to two spectacular bridges and frequent accelerations out of many unspectacular curves on the course. And then there is the wind: we are relatively close to Baltic and North seas and the wind is blowing mercilessly in huge open areas as we cross the port of Hamburg – the biggest in Europe. This course keeps you pushing all the time.

The run course is the highlight of the race: filled with cheering people, these apparently “cool Nordic characters” are crazy fans when it comes to sports events, and triathlon in particular. They know how to support and motivate you when you feel like you have a clear preference to instant death vs more running at km 25 of Ironman marathon. They are all out there, all dressed in très chic & cool Sunday style, with their cute blond babies and equally cute blond Labradors, happy and cheerful as a fan can be. They will totally share their energy and find encouraging words for you – just look at them and smile. If you don’t, they will still support you, so stay in your tunnel, if you wish. Running in Hamburg is a bliss, even if you are suffering like a dog and don’t look cute at all. You will pass by the finish line at each of 4 loops – and the finish line is an A-class party. Hamburg knows how to celebrate – they have Reeperbahn at the end of the day! And this party goes on till 23:00 when last finishers are crossing and crawling over the finish line. Goosebumps, strangers hugged and the whole world brought together in Hamburg! With all their different life choices. Let us respect and celebrate them!

So, the big question now is - will training for Ironman AND driving a Porsche at the same time give you an Achilles tendinitis on both legs – or will it actually equalise or even heal it? Worth exploring! Just need to convince my university friend to start training for an Ironman :-) 

CTB 28: The Art of Racing Ironman

Last weekend I attended Ironman Zurich to support my athletes and friends competing there. Ironman is tough per se, but Ironman Zurich is probably among the top 5 toughest races on Ironman circuit due to its bike course. It has 2 hilly loops which feature several long climbs, technical descents and longer flat stretches along Zurich lake which quietly seduce into pushing too hard and burning even more matches than on climbs. This course makes it difficult to find the right pace and to distribute energy evenly and strategically, so that many athletes get off the bike already totally exhausted. I spent ca. 30min at the entrance of T2, somewhere 7.5 to 8hrs into the race, and my estimate was that ca. 80% of all athletes arriving there were completely beaten up by the bike course, and only very few looked like they still had good legs for the run.

And then I watched the marathon. And again, the 80-20 principle could be observed: roughly 20% of the athletes were running, while 80% were struggling and suffering. Later into the afternoon, the “struggle & suffer” percentage was steadily increasing. The running form was falling apart, the control of the race was gone and it was all misery personified hundreds of times. I was suffering with athletes: it really hurts to see them like this, being low on energy and sometimes even in pain. So I did my best to cheer them up, using all my humour, compassion and languages – but I kept asking myself: Where is the joy in the effort? Where is the fun and appreciation of doing something that incredible? How can we race better? And what do we learn from racing Ironman for life?

So here come my ideas from my 15 years of Ironman racing and coaching. I reflect on them constantly, trying to get to the “golden nuggets” of Ironman racing, to conceptualise and strategise what turns out to be an art of racing Ironman.

1. Racing Ironman is an art.

Becoming an artist takes practice, so does racing Ironman. There are so many factors to consider, so many things that can go wrong and so much of it is based on feelings and emotions, that managing an Ironman skilfully becomes a true masterpiece. Having a great day racing Ironman does not come easy and it does not come often – since everything has to be and to work perfectly for it: your form and recovery, equipment, weather, mood, etc.  And yet still, you can find joy in every race, even in a not so perfect one or a downright bad day out there. You can use the power of your mind and your creativity to reframe what is happening to you, to gain perspective and to get out of your head. So you become an artist of your own race. Mental power helps to quiet your mind and tune down negative thoughts and emotions – or better even to switch them off. Creativity helps resolve problems that arise, like a forgotten piece of equipment or missing foods at the aid station. Discipline, a trait shared of all great artists, helps to execute your race plan flawlessly, because the best creative solution for a dropped bottle is to stop and to pick it up :-)  Practice, creativity, discipline – the art of racing Ironman.  

2. Racing Ironman is pacing Ironman.

Maybe the most difficult skill in Ironman is Pacing. It actually means going slow for almost the total duration of the race. Ironman is an ultra-endurance event, and it is aerobic by definition. You need to go slightly sub your best aerobic pace for 80% of the race, or even 90%, to hit the best aerobic pace towards its end. Ironman really starts at km 25 of the run.

Arriving at this point, you should still: i) Have enough energy (i.e. cardiac capacity) to keep the pace and eventually even increase it, in case you are fighting for podium or Kona slot (or your just want to show off with a negative split), ii) Keep your running form together, iii) Have enough fuel (i.e. glucose) and power reserves in your muscles to produce effective propulsion.

In Ironman the winner is always the one who slows down the least.

So you have to go slow and fully controlled almost all the time – and especially the first half of the bike. You need to go so slow that you are almost feeling bad about doing it in a race. If you have this feeling in the first half of the bike – you are on track to rock the course! If your heart rate is 40-50 beats below your maximum, or in Zone 2, which is around 120-135 bpm for most people – then you are riding towards a happy run!

The swim is a bit different though. Most athletes totally underestimate the energy they spent in the water and come to the race significantly under-prepared. Even having an “easy swim” which lasts 80 or 90min is very taxing to the body and if you are not enough swim-trained, you will be recovering from it for the rest of the race. You might actually pay for the swim on the run – you have overspent you cardiac capacity swimming and now you lack it for the run. So swimming is the true foundation of Ironman. You need to get out of water fresh, with low HR, so that you get on your bike in a relaxed state and continue the race, keeping your HR low – till km 25 of the run!

3. Your nutrition strategy is your race strategy.

You are what you think. You race how you eat. Figuring out right nutrition, its quantity and timing is absolutely crucial. This takes practice and needs to be intentional. Your nutrition training should start the same day you start your season training. The aim is to develop both lipid and glucose energy production mechanisms: you need to become both fat-adapted and glucose-consuming machine, which can run both systems simultaneously during the race. Your fat adaptation training teaches your body to use your lipid (fat) stores of energy and takes the form of fasted sessions, 1 or 2 times per week, when you perform training on low or zero carbohydrates nutrition. On the other hand, during long and intensive sessions, you should consume carbs and figure out what kind of products work best for you (maltodextrine or fructose, gels or chocolate, bread or pretzels, etc).

The well-known rule for endurance nutrition is 60 to 90 grams of carbs per hour, ideally taken in every 20 minutes, in liquid or solid form, together with hydration. So rehearsing this should be a part of training. And then comes the most difficult part – executing this strategy in the race. With so much adrenaline, excitement and distractions during a big event like an Ironman, it is too easy to get carried away and forget your “feeding” schedule. Big mistake! You will pay for it dearly. If it is just an energy low as a consequence – you can correct it by starting eating and drinking again (but you will lose quite some time in the process of recovering from this low). However, if your stomach is not cooperating, this is a much worse scenario. Still, the best sports drink ever - Coca-Cola - plus some salty pretzels, will normally rescue you. Try this in training too.

4. Pain is inevitable.

Unless you have the race of your life and the best day ever, it is practically guaranteed that at some point of the race you will feel quite horrible. In Ironman, it is a part of the game. So embrace it! And remember, that it will pass too. Mostly it is a short-term pain, low energy due to insufficient nutrition or over-pacing – or stiff back from cycling when you arrive in T2 or cramps on the run. None of it will kill you. And all of it will pass if you take some measures: slowing down, taking your nutrition in and waiting for glucose to arrive in your working muscles, using your mental power to quiet down your mind and negative thoughts, stretching, breathing – and smiling at your fellow competitors, volunteers and spectators. Yes, some pain in Ironman is inevitable – BUT

5. Suffering is optional.

Nobody can escape low moments in such a long race and some pain in inevitable. In such moments our limbic brain will shout for survival and quitting. It always does. But our mental power, intentional strategies of preparation and measures above will help us to overrule it. Humor helps too. Why don’t we laugh about ourselves, about us actually paying for this torture? Walking along the marathon course in Zurich, I was shouting to Athletes “You paid for it, so enjoy it now” – and everyone was smiling back.

So get out of your head and take some perspective on the situation. It is just now, just short-term discomfort. “Pain is temporary, glory is forever”. As a friend of my once said: “Why should I ever quit? I have nothing else to do today – just to finish this race”. Really, what else do you have to do other  than to finish? And to enjoy this incredible effort? And to learn some humility along the way? Nothing reveals a character more than extreme situations, so racing Ironman is a character test too. How you will act in difficult parts of it says a lot about who you are. Your ability to reframe, to find joy, humility and gratitude during the race will have the most direct impact on its outcome and quality.

So truly, while some pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Just like in life.  

CTB 27: Going extreme - Training for Xtri

The popularity and number of extreme triathlons is growing fast. Norseman, CeltMan, Swissman, Evergreen, Double Brutal Wales, Enduroman Arch to Arc, and so on. There is also a new Xtri World Tour, which includes Norseman, Celtman, Swissman, CanadaMan/Woman, Alaskaman and Janosek Slovak xtri. Each race has a rigid selection process or a lottery to enter, the waiting lists are long and number of participants is limited (for example, both Norseman and Swissman accept only 250 athletes). Given this high demand, we can expect further growth of extreme races.

So what makes a triathlon an extreme one  – an Xtri?  It can be its elevation profile, terrain or weather conditions. Even one of these factors can double the duration of an average «city» Ironman and triple the suffer score. Especially the elevation adds to the finish time: my estimate is that each 1000m of elevation can add between 30 and 60min to your overall time. Steep inclines mean more gravity, more fatigue and lead to significant slowing down of race pace: you can run up a 4-5% hill at 10-11km/h, but you definitely have to walk 15-20% hill at sometimes as slow as 2.5-3 km/hr, which is and feels like crawling, especially if it is on a technically challenging mountain trail.

One of the most popular and sought after extreme triathlons is SWISSMAN, which I finished on Jun 24th and which truly deserves its extreme label. It takes you over three major mountain passes (two of them are “hors catégory”) with total elevation of +3500m (11483 ft) and crosses south-north weather divide in the Alps to finish marathon at 2061m (6762 ft) altitude with a total elevation of +1800m (5905 ft) on the run. This race takes you from almost tropical southern, Italian-speaking part of Switzerland to highest Swiss mountains, covered with snow and glaciers, and weather-wise you can truly experience all 4 seasons during one day.

In addition, most Xtris are self-supported races and each athlete is required to have a supporter, or a whole crew, who will feed her and drive behind her with spare bike parts and several changes of clothes, food and drink. On the last 10-20km of the run, which typically take you away from civilization and roads, the supporter is required to run/walk with the athlete to the finish. So the whole thing is not only physical, but also a logistical challenge.

So, how one can train for an extreme triathlon? Here are 5 most important skills – or What Counts Factors for Going Extreme:

1) Fatigue resistance: It takes a very strong athlete to complete an iron-distance Xtri: physically strong, emotionally resilient and mentally focused. All this can be trained. The main method is hard interval training with a very high number of short and intensive reps to be completed under a pressure of a fixed time. Example sessions:

Swim: 50x100m with paddles & pullbouy on 1:45

Bike:  1hr of 3min max power hill repeats with 1min rest

Run:   50x200m on 1min

The idea it to keep the pace and not to slow down: the winner in all extreme and ultra-endurance races is the one who slows down the least. Fatigue resistance is also trained in multiple short sessions per day, where we train without being fully recovered (but recovered enough to avoid injury) and in all variations of bricks: bike-swim-bike, bike-run, swim-run-bike or even bike-office work-bike.

What is key it to become aware of your inner voice and internal dialog during hard sessions and being able to train it too to become your internal motivation coach – and maybe a drill sergeant sometimes!

2) Power endurance: Racing in mountains requires a consistently high power output to create enough propulsion to go uphill fast (or just go uphill) – against increased gravity and resistance. That is why all endurance training for an extreme event absolutely has to have a power component to it in order to develop specific muscle strength. Here are some examples of how to do it: 

Swim: up to 60-70% of the swim training is done with paddles to develop swim strength and get out of water fresh.

Bike:  We push big gear when we ride on flat roads and on up to 5% hills. At least once per week we do hill repeats and we also do max power turbo train sessions once or twice a week: short but very effective training to develop power.

Run: At least once per week we do hill repeats – many reps of 15 to 90sec of uphill sprints with high but not max intensity. We also try to do our long runs in hilly area – or run on treadmill to simulate race profile.

3) Weather resistance: This is rather an individual skill, since people have different sensitivity to hot/cold weather conditions. Although Norseman is always won by Norwegians, who are well adapted to cold and wet weather, everyone can become better adapted with specific training and nutrition.  Training in bad weather conditions and learning how to dress strategically, is something everyone can do – but it takes overcoming a lot of mental resistance. However, when you do train in what your qualify as “bad weather”, you will most probably notice that is not that bad at the end and there is a lot in your head that prevents you from going out when it is rainy, cold or windy. ("Get out of your head, or you are dead!"). That is why weather resistance is also a mental skill – your mental strength can take you through the most horrible weather. Nutrition plays an important part too: fat adapted athletes with well develop fat metabolism and consuming higher % of good fats in their diets seem to handle cold weather better. They kind of go in “winter mode” and switch to lipid energy production which keeps them warm, like a bear in his winter sleep.

4) Nutrition and Fat adaptation: As mentioned, fat adapted athletes have an advantage in ultra long races and this advantage can be a critical one. After 10+ hours of racing in harsh conditions, your stomach will not be able any more to digest the 60-80grs of carbs per hour that you are trying to get in. It will need a break, during which you might bonk if you are not fat adapted, or it may simply shut down because all your blood and physical and cardiac capacity will go into the working muscles and maintenance of brain function. Extreme race is 100% aerobic and you need to develop a mixed metabolism to provide your body with enough energy: you will need to be able to oxidize both carbs and fat during the race, so that you eat less but still can perform using your fat reserves as fuel. This takes dedicated training (a lot of fasted runs and rides) and nutrition with high fat % in your race preparation, and even the race itself. (Please see, CTB 26 on "Cream diet"). Also, knowing what, when and how much to eat is absolutely critical in an extreme or ultra race. It has to be meticulously planned and trained – and even more important – you have to have enough focus and concentration to be able to execute your nutrition strategy during the race.

5) Supporter collaboration: You cannot finish an extreme triathlon without a supporter! First, it is a mandatory requirement from race organizers – you fully rely on your supporter to provide you with food and drink and several changes of clothing. It is your Sherpa and your mule for the day:  hesets up and dismantles your transition zones, carries your stuff, pushes you over the last hill and helps you if there is a technical problem. But more important, your supporter is your mental and emotional bond, your positive charge and your motivator when going gets really tough. These selfless heroes might actually have a harder job that you – so be thankful forever! Racing an extreme event is an unforgettable experience, which is best when it is shared with other humans.


CTB 26: Cream Diet

I have to confess - I am really not into diets. I actually truly hate them. I believe in balanced nutrition and listening to your body´s needs. I have also been a (not so dogmatic) vegan for three years and was very happy with it. Being vegan brought a lot of new food discoveries and made me feel lighter and younger. So no complains at all.

Then I learned about the cream diet - yes, 10 days of whipped cream and crème fraiche/sour crème - from a very lean former professional triathlete. He was quite convincing and claimed that it was by far the best way to stimulate fat metabolism and to get to your racing weight (he promised up to 1kg of weight loss per day, provided one kept serious training load). I thought he was nuts, the diet was disgusting, anti-vegan and over the top extreme – but it made me think.

Fact is, highly trained endurance athletes are using both carbohydrate and fat metabolism to fuel their performance, both in racing and in training. They have highly developed fat burning capacity and trained their body to use stored fat effectively, even at race conditions. This is a huge advantage in endurance sports, since glycogen reserves get depleted fast and food intake capacity is limited: your digestive system cannot absorb more than, at the very high end, 80-90grams of carbs per hour, which is 320-360 Kcal, while you might be burning up to 1000 Kcal/per hour, thus accumulating energy deficit over time. If you don’t take any nutrition and if your body does not know how to use fat as fuel, the game (i.e the race) is over for you in two hours.

In order to go long, you need all the extra energy you can get and if you can access your fat depots, you can perform for a very long time without significant performance deterioration - we all, even the leanest among us, have enough fat to run several hundred miles on it. 

Now back to the cream diet. Its logic is therefore very simple: you feed your system only fat, so it has no choice but to learn how to effectively use it as fuel! It will burn the fat you eat and it will burn the fat you so carefully stored, just in case you need to survive a winter in Siberian forest… One condition: you have to stay active, so that your body learns to burn fat also under stress, with elevated heart rates, and it learns to use it efficiently too.

For a more scientific explanation, we will have to revert to Krebs cycle.  It is the system of energy metabolism in our bodies, a series of chemical reactions to produce energy molecules ATP - adenosine triphosphate, by oxidising carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Simply put, everything you eat gets broken down to glucose (and amino-acids, vitamins, etc). Glucose is our fuel and it means survival. The straightforward way to derive glucose is to oxidise carbohydrates. This explains why simple sugars contained abundantly in such things as Coca-Cola “get into your blood” right away and you feel a surge of energy immediately – it is a short cut for the body to make glucose out of simple sugar. And it gets truly addicted to it too. Whereas using fat for glucose metabolism takes longer and is a much less energy efficient process for the body. Unless it learns how to do it. 

This learning takes some time, so you will most likely suffer a bit for the first two days on the cream diet. You will experience sugar cravings and feel low on energy – well, a bit like a (sugar) junkie. This is normal - your body wants a shortcut in form of sugar. You will have to deprive it from getting it – go on sugar rehab - so that your body has to get to stored fat to fuel your life.

On day 3 or 4 you will feel better – you will most probably have lost around 2kg and a cm or two around your waist. Do measure your waist, chest, thigh and arm circumferences – these are the fat depot areas and they will start melting, like polar ice caps…  Provided you train like you did before – but now you take only water with you on your rides and runs (and maybe one emergency gel) – you will be surprised how long you can actually go without eating, snacking or drinking sugary drinks. Four hours on the bike with some 2000 altitude meters or 2 hours run – no problem! You will actually notice that it is easier to climb and to run hills now (recall, it is all about “power to weight” ratio when we go vertical…). This was also my experience.  By day 9 or 10 you will probably be 4 to 5kgs (or more) lighter and your body will be way more energy efficient.

You will become fat-adapted. A lean, mean racing machine!

Getting off this diet is easy – have a cake with a lot of cream! And keep several “low carb” training days a week to maintain your newly acquired fat burning capacity. Train fasted in the morning – no breakfast and no or a small protein & fat dinner the night before. This works also if you don’t exercise – skip dinner and breakfast and you will have fasted (and burned fat) for almost 24hrs – this is how monks and ballerinas do it. 

Enjoy your cream!

(Note for vegans: Cream is dairy. Not vegan. BUT - if you secretly like cream but did not have it in three years, I guess this diet will be a bit easier for you. It becomes almost a decadent experience to have a bowl of cream for breakfast... lunch... and dinner..).

CTB 25: Sochi: from Olympics to IronStar

Three years ago, Sochi hosted Winter Olympic Games, first time in Russia and first time in a sub-tropical climate, which Sochi is. I travelled many times to Sochi, working for the IOC, and also could witness the Games live: "Hot, cool, yours" - Sochi Games were an unforgettable experience (despite of me getting really sick there...).

But now what to do with all the venues, hotels and infrastructure built for the mega-event? The eternal legacy question of Olympic Games... Russian answer: 1) Stimulate tourism, 2) Direct conferences and conventions to Sochi, 3) Build a F1 circuit in the Olympic park - and the best of all 4) Organize an Iron distance triathlon in Sochi! And IronStar is in charge. 

Ironstar  is Russian triathlon! The epic series of events include sprint, Olympic, Half- Ironman and full Ironman distances across Russian cities. The Grand Finale - IronStar 226 - the Ironman distance, will take place on Sept 23rd in Olympic Sochi and partly on F1 circuit - how cool is that? My brave athlete Darren Ho #mentalchampion from Singapore will fly over half of the world to race there! I will help him with my personal coaching and all other participants with my training plans! It will be unforgettable again!

 #IronStar #ironman #ironmantraining #coachtatjana







CTB 24: Form follows fatigue

November-December-January-February-early March... If you live in a climate with all 4 seasons and above 40N, these are the toughest and maybe the most disliked (or even hated) months of training. It is cold and dark outside, the days are short and you are super busy at work and with your family commitments. The gyms and pools are full with people and their New Year resolutions – damn these winter holidays! And you might even yourself have put on some weight, so you are really feeling heavy, tired and de-motivated... Every workout is a mini-torture and it takes all your will to drag yourself out - and sometimes the will is just not strong enough..

Sounds familiar? Well, you are not alone in this. I guess all "active endurance lifestyle" people feel the same, in varying degrees. Please do not despair! “Build it and it will come”! If you stayed on course in winter, even with some deviations, and completed at least 70-80% of your training plan (or of what you intended to do), I guarantee you, that the form will find you one day. This one magic day, seemingly same as any other, you will go out for your usual run and suddenly feel light and fit and strong. You will tear apart all your splits of last 3 months and will do it with a lower heart rate. Bingo and congratulations: You have just made a qualitative leap in your form. 

What does it mean in terms of physiology? Well, it means that your lactate threshold levels expanded and your lactate curve shifted right and downwards. The longer and flatter your lactate curve is, like the "marathoner" one on this graphic, the longer & faster you can perform in the aerobic state. You can run same or more distance faster and at a lower heart rate. This adaptation is the holy grail of endurance training – and it takes time, like all good things in life.

In order to induce this adaptation we need to train consistently. We need to exercise regularly and with built-in progression. We need to have quality recovery times – because adaptation happens when we rest. My Russian track coach used to say: “When it hurts, it grows”.  Now we know better. “It” grows when we rest (after we loaded “it”).

Yes, form follows fatigue – so it needs to get worse before it gets better. We need to get tired, sometimes even exhausted. But not every workout has to be an exhaustive one – this is the recipe for injury and burn-out. We need to have easy days and hard days, in perfect balance. And even a hard training day should not be a killer one. Yes, from time to time, something really hard – but mostly “just” intense, so that we can recover after a good clean meal and 8-9 hours of sleep. If two days after the training, “it” still hurts than “it” does not grow. You earned kudos for mental toughness, but your muscles are really unhappy and you definitely burned some form matches.

And here is the good news: if you followed a consistent, reasonably intensive and gently progressive training routine in winter months, now you should be feeling “IT”. This famous sensation of being “in form”:  fit, strong, light and lean, a happy state when a 2hrs run or 4-5km swim is not a challenge anymore, neither physically, not mentally. This means that have fought well in the “months of fatigue” and than now ready for the spring training, the most important period, when your training gets specific and targeted to your priority A race.

Congratulations to you – and happy training! Spring is in the air!

Next time you get tired – remember, it is all for good – FORM FOLLOWS FATIGUE.

CTB 23: Season 2017 - What Will You Do Differently?

February 2017 – high time to wake up from winter hibernation and get active. Oh, you started training already? Bravo to you! If not, well, there is still plenty of time to get into a good form for your summer races. In any case, by this time of the year, you should definitely know your A priority race for 2017 season - your sporting highlight of the year!  Of course, everyone has a different priority and a different objective. Here is what my Athletes (and myself) have on our lists for 2017: 

1) First Olympic triathlon, 2) First Ironman70.3, 3) Improve Ironman time, 4) Two ultra trails,   5) Set marathon PB, 6) Run first marathon, 7) Finish Swissman, 8) Qualify for Kona, 9) Raid Dolomites: 9 days and 40 cols, 10) Finish double Ironman!

An impressive list indeed! Chapeau for such motivating and challenging goals. I can confirm, everyone in my squad has started a very intentional and dedicated training. Because no matter which race, challenge or what kind of distance or altitude you choose, we all need to be prepared and motivated when we stand on the starting line – and we need to respect and love the race too!

If this is not your first season training, I have a question to you - what will you do differently this time?

I have some ideas for you. Most of them are inspired by my conversations with two greats of triathlon training: Joe Friel, the author of legendary “Training Bible” and Brett Sutton, the most successful triathlon coach and maker of Olympic and multiple Ironman champions. Plus my coaching experience and some crazy personal experimenting in 15 years of racing – with a added spin of creative learning from everywhere - you get the origin story for these ideas!

Here we go, this that we will do differently in my squad in 2017 - and some crazier things that I urge you to try out:

1. We will do shorter and more intensive sessions – we have busy lives and we want highest quality of training with max impact on our fitness and performance. Being fully present and concentrated during these sessions will be key.

2. We will do a lot of “whoosh-whoosh” power swimming with paddles and pullbouys. Thank you, Brett, for the “science of a paddle” and the mantra: “place, press, push – make my swimming go whoosh!”

3. Stomp, stomp, stomp! If you are not a professionally trained cyclist, then maybe a high Lance-like cadence is not your thing. Developing full circle, “round” and powerful pedalling over "dead zones" takes years of practice and loads of track sprint training. This technique uses a lot of leg power – also fatiguing the muscles triathletes need for running after the bike. So why not trying “stomping”? Meaning focus on downstroke pedalling and letting your leg come in the upstroke almost without any effort.  Low cadence - big power output. Stomp, stomp, stomp!

4. The only way is up! We will run and bike uphill a lot. Short and sweet, long and tiring - hills win!

5. TUF running: Let us be realistic – your graceful 100m running style will not cut it for the marathon.. so we need to adopt the most efficient technique you can maintain for hours – we call it “technique under fatigue”. And we will train our core muscles (a lot) to ensure solid "frame" support for our running.

6. Double bubble – how about a double run, double swim or double bike per day? Just from time to time, to trigger faster adaptations in our form.

7. Triple crown – Or even better – ever tried 3 swims or runs per day? Sounds like a lot – but will you manage to do 3x45min running per day? Of course! Actually, almost everyone will - but there is a huge ROI on such training. Again, let us surprise our system and get a kick out of it!

8. Fasted – sorry, boys and girls, but we need to fire our lipid energy production to go long… So we will need to teach our body to use fat as an energy source more efficiently. Hence, fasted run and bike sessions before the breakfast.. As the 1st session of 2 or 3 :-) 

9. Indoors vs outdoors – Everyone seems to prefer training outdoors, but turbo bike and treadmill will need to become our dear friends. They help us train very precisely and very efficiently (see Nr 1). They are also safe options to take advantage of the educational value of exercise (see Nr 13).

10. Harmony – maybe this is me being obsessed with numbers… but I do like harmony in workouts very much, where it makes sense of course. For example: harmony is when your swim warm-up is exactly the same as your cool-down and you have an even number of sets as a main set to make it a perfect “sandwich training”. Or your brick is “ride 100km – run 10km”. Or you run 20km on each 20th of the month and swim 5km on each 5th of the month – you get the idea... Yes, it makes it look better on paper and your TrainingPeaks, but it also creates a feeling of completeness and thus an additional stimulus not to cut short any part of it.

11. Belly dancing – Well, triathletes do not really have bellies.. But still, I believe in borrowing ideas from everywhere and this one might surprise you – but belly dancing has some absolutely unique moves for engaging and working your deep core muscles and improving mobility of your spine. Just try to make an “eight” – or infinity sign – with your hips and then with your chest – in both directions... Tip: start practicing at home before you do it in public  -  and yes, boys should/can do it too.

12. Classical music – Music is the only legal and official performance enhancer. Some running races even allow wearing headphones in a race. Well, many athletes exercise with music, even swim with it (aka Swimbot). Rock, pop, maybe jazz…. But ever tried classical music? Truly magical for long and steady workouts. Just don’t cry because of its beauty (happened to me actually ..)

13. Books, books, books – the Educational value of training ultra long – I like listening to books and podcasts when I ran – or ride indoors or on lonely roads (with one earphone only!). If you go for a really long training, like several hours, you can actually listen to a whole book. Just to give you an idea of the duration for some of the audiobooks in my library which make my runs and rides both academic and entertaining: One unit of Japanese is 30-35 minutes,  “Animal Farm” is 3hrs 13 min, “Great Gatsby” is 4hr 50min., “Happiness Hypothesis” is 12hrs, “Born to Run” is 13hrs, “Thinking: Fast and Slow” is 20hrs, “Capital in the 21st century” is 1 day and “Infinite Jest” is 2.5 days… Who is training for a triple Ironman? J

Happy training 2017!!!