Do the work that counts – Endurance training in a nutshell

By | Cycle, Endurance, Run, Swim, Triathlon | No Comments

Training is the investment of time to improve results.

There are four basic components in endurance training:

  • Aerobic training – 80% to 85% of training time in Zone 1 and lower Zone 2 (MAF)
  • Force Development – 5% of training time (Maximal Strength – Zone 5+)
  • Durability training – 10% to 15% of training time (Zone 3 – 4)
  • Technique – Integrated into training and active recovery
  • Recovery – Active recovery + 7.5 hours+ sleep average per night.

Any training session should be targeting these adaptations. The only session that have benefits if you have muscular fatigue are durability and active recovery.

Know what your session is targeting and stick to the plan. If you can’t nail it, go home and use the recovery time, don’t dig a hole!


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Sodium loss testing and intensity

By | Nutrition, Run, Triathlon | No Comments

Recently I did some analysis on an athlete’s sodium loss and cramping issue reminding me of an issue I had a couple of years back.

I had a sodium test done out of interest, even though I did not have a cramping issue. The recommendation suggested I take significantly more sodium than the norm due to my high sodium loss. I implemented this in my next race experienced severe cramping. In review we established my sodium intake was too high slowing my water absorption and causing bloating.

The issue was that the sodium test report did not show a relationship between exercise intensity and loss rate. My test was done at threshold pace, however my race was a 70.3 performed at close to aerobic intensity (Zone 2). Read More

Training intensity distribution for IRONMAN and Marathons

By | Endurance, Run, Triathlon | No Comments

As an endurance coach one of my key messages is to slow down training to speed up on race day. Many don’t appreciate just how much aerobic volume is needed and emulate elite training pace rather than elite training heart rate.

Many athletes who join my program are surprised how slow I ask them to train for much of their training hours. The reason is that without a critical volume of aerobic training your heart rate over pace will not have enough head room to sustain race pace effort for the duration of a race.

For IRONMAN I recommend 75% to 80% of training should be below aerobic threshold  in Zone 1, or below MAF pace with the remaining spread between zones 2, 4 and 5 depending on training phase. For Marathon the intensity distribution is 80 to 84% zone 1 (MAF pace) and 12% zone 2 (Marathon race pace).

For many experienced athletes who have been training at high intensity for years, dropping to  MAF pace or Zone 1 heart rate will mean a lot of walking for the first few weeks while the aerobic system develops. This is tough for some but necessary of they wish to break through their inevitable current plateau. I say “Shelve the ego, suck it up buttercup and follow the proven process”.

Without this aerobic training the mitochondria needed to support the efficiency needed to enable sustainable zone 2 pace will not develop.

Below are two key studies showing evidence of success in aerobic training. It is also important to note that including this percentage of zone 1 with allow for increased volume of training due to the lower training stress per hour.

Training Intensity Distribution During an Ironman Season Relationship With Competition Performance

Distribution of Training Volume and Intensity of Elite Male and Female Track and Marathon Runners

For new athletes joining my program a key indicator is the difference in their 5km and half marathon performance. Using the vDot predictions I take the athletes best 5km or 10km time and compare their predicted 21km to their actual. If there is a significant difference between the two this suggests an under developed aerobic system. This is then validated with a decoupling test for run and bike for triathletes.

The runners study also shows the aerobic volume is also key for shorter endurance distances.

Being overweight is not the problem…

By | Health, Nutrition | No Comments

Yes, that’s right! Being overweight is not the problem, it is a symptom.

Common belief is that being overweight is the problem and using energy in / energy out by reducing calories and increasing exercise will solve the problem and improve your health. This is not a sustainable solution and is likely to lead to lower vitality more health issues and later weight gain.

Being overweight is a visible symptom and is therefore associated as the cause of poor health and many ailments like type 2 diabetes and auto-immune diseases are often encountered without being overweight, especially those who are very active.

Being overweight is a symptom of poor lifestyle choices of nutrition, stress, white light (screens) and a lack of exercise. Many other ailments are generally consequences of the same but can happen independently, without the excessive weight.

So what is the problem you ask? Hormones and poor gut health are the problems to solve.

Hormones are a essentially chemicals released in the body to signal responses to situations and scenarios, both real and perceived.

The gut health is essential to absorb nutrients and also to keep toxins in the digestive system, out of the rest of the body.

Insulin and Glucagon

Simply put, insulin is created when blood sugar is high, glucagon is created when blood sugar is low. When insulin is high, glucagon is low.

Insulin signals the body to process glycogen and store energy, glucagon signals the body to use fat for fuel.

Key message, if you constantly consume excessive carbohydrates keeping your blood sugar high you will remain in a fat storage state and never enter a fat burn state. You need to periodise carbs, between meals, optional fasting days.

Note I say periodise carbs not calories! For most two thirds of calories are used to sustain life, that’s breathing, digesting and thinking. Cutting calories will see your body save energy by slowing metabolism before it burns fat! To perodise we need to keep calories up by consuming more non starchy vegetables and health fats to keep calories up. Protein should not be used to prop up calories and the body will convert excessive protein to glycogen.


Cortisol is a stress hormone which is created when we encounter physical, emotional or perceived stress. Cortisol effectively puts us in a fight or flight state and encourages the use of glycogen over fat. Imbalances in cortisol has many impacts essentially in the case of prolonged stress which can lead to adrenal fatigue (another subject for another blog!).

Gut Health

Gut health is essential to health living. It is essentially a system which uses bacteria to break down food to nutrients which can be absorbed as vitamins, minerals and macro nutrient. Without a diverse range of bacteria or a rich diversity of food intake, our energy and health will be compromised.

Poor choice of food which irritate the gut can also lead to poor health as they can lead to a “leaky gut” where bacteria and toxins escape our digestive system and simply poison us. Common symptoms include constant headaches, unexplained aches and pains, bloating. Leaky gut has been identified as a cause for many auto-immune illnesses.

The solution

  • Avoid excessive and constant carbohydrate, especially processed simple carbs!
  • Avoid or minimise food which are known irritants of gut distress like processed sugar, grain flour, dairy if lactose intolerant.
  • Ensure regular intake of pre and probiotics to assist in building healthy bacteria in the gut.
  • Periodise carbs by having periods (daily, weekly and monthly) when glucagon is created and your body can burn fat. If you have not done this before it may take a couple of weeks before your body re-learns to burn fat efficiently.
  • Ensure you have calm periods in your life to regulate cortisol, again daily, weekly, monthly and annually. Limit white light (Screen time) especially in the lead-up to sleep.
  • Embrace good stress leading to learning and growth, avoid bad stress related to “what if”, worry and uncontrollables. Be at cause, not at effect!
  • Participate in a sustainable exercise regime at a minimum of 2.5 hours per week. Ensure 80% of this exercise is at aerobic intensity, at a heart rate of 180 – you age or at a level where you can breath in through your noseand out through your mouth with relative ease. The remaining 20% can be at high intensity by in sessions less than 45 min in duration.

Nutrition, hormone and stress health are essential to a healthy life style. Take care of a balanced life in nutrition, stress and exercise and your weight will take care of itself with a lot less will power that habitual dieting!





Periodised Carbohydrates

By | Health, Nutrition, Triathlon | No Comments

Here is the thing, the body prioritises carbohydrates ahead of fat for fuel. Although we always burn a combination of carbs, fat and protein, if carbs are in abundance, our system will consume these first. If we constantly consume carbs at a level we never deplete we will store excessive carbs, fats and proteins in the diet as fat, simple. Periodised Carbohydrates is the key. Read More

Snacks and Desserts

By | Health, Nutrition, Triathlon | No Comments

With a good balanced diet, which includes a healthy ratio on real food nutrients, snacks become unnecessary at satiety will keep you going for 4 to 5 hours. That’s fat adaption working for you!

If you really need a snack you can find some healthy options at The Natural Nutrionist Snacks.

Desserts should be treated an occasional treat. They are for celebrations and parties. You don’t need to abstain, just don’t make them a habit! Abstain too long and you will surely binge!

There a few healthy treats courtesy of The Natural Nutrionist Treats.