As you age, it’s easy to become stuck in your ways,” explains one of the UK’s finest coaches James Beckinsale. “One athlete I coached, Tim Bishop, came to me as a strong runner but we worked on his off-the-bike run technique in search of a 3hr marathon. He was resistant to start with but, six months later and with an open mindset, a more economical Tim went sub-9hrs for an Ironman.”
Beckinsale transformed Bishop from a heel-striker to a forefoot runner and the rest, as they say… When it comes to technique, just remember that persistence pays off. But not purely on a muscular level.
Train your neurology
Mike Antionades is a biomechanical expert at the Running School. He believes that ‘training your neurology’ is the most neglected area of performance but, with a degree of dedication, it can pay off.
“It takes between 40-60 days and a lot of repetition to change your neural map and for new techniques to become an automated process,” he says. “You should practise new skills – in the case of what I teach, running technique – at least 30mins a day for the first seven to 10 days, and then three times a week to reinforce those new pathways.”
This will recruit more neurons, and essentially re-hardwire your brain and body. As well as recruiting more neurons, key to improving your tri technique overhaul is a white, pearlescent substance known as myelin – a sausage-shaped layer of dense fat that wraps around the nerve fibres, maintaining a strong electrical signal by stopping electrical impulses leaking out.
The thicker the myelin, the thicker the insulation, the stronger the signal from one fibre to the next. And you achieve that by practice.
Focus on ‘force work’
“As well as being receptive to learning, this age-group need to keep on top of ‘force work’,” Beckinsale adds. “These are sessions like low-cadence and big-gear work to increase bike-specific strength.” With this type of session, there are several technique pointers to adhere to: maintain stable hips and control knee alignment through the entire pedal stroke; set your bike cleats slightly back to ensure a more stable connection between pedal and cleat; and if you feel knee pain, shift up a gear and keep cadence above 75rpm.
As your family grows up, you’ll have more training time. Cue a stab at Ironman. Cue more pain. One study showed 60% of Ironman competitors consumed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug in the three months before their race. Used to fight pain, they work. But, like many athletes, don’t use them to alleviate muscle soreness as they impair the recovery process.
Coach Joe Beckinsale shares his 3 top tips for the 40-49-year-old competing athlete
1. SKILLS AND STRETCH
Essentially you lose it if you don’t use it, so work on your mobility. This means drills and technique work, as well as stretching and pilates.
2. BE EFFICIENT
Do the hard sessions hard but stay efficient at burning fuel. So continue to do the easy sessions easy, at 55%-65% of your maximum heart rate.
3. PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
Studies show that your capacity to build greater levels of stamina increases as you age. So consider stepping up to 70.3 or Ironman.
8 tri-specific gym workouts for triathletes over 40