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Ötillö swimrun Malta – With Michael Lemmel

Ötillö swimrun Malta

The Ötillö swimrun Malta is a new race on the World Series this season. Malta, a stunning island with long rich history. Even though Maltas nature is quite scarce, it has long thrived as a trading nation. So, safe to say, this is a place where you will feel welcome, due to its long-going international way of life.


Anyone who is doing the sprint or the experience on Malta will say: Wow! This is a little piece of swimrun paradise.

michael lemmel

Travel to Malta

By plane, travel to Malta international airport. There are many international airlines, as well as Malta’s own carrier who traffics the airport. Transfer from the airport is cheap, taking the bus to Valetta will cost about 1,50 – 2 €. If you want to take a cab. Buy the pre-paid tickets. it is much cheaper, and 24-hour service.

By boat, you can travel to Malta from Pozzallo on Sicily. The trip takes about 90 minutes. A round trip ticket will cost you 82 €.

Accommodations

There are many options on where to stay for this race. Check out Couchsurfing, Airbnb, and hotels on the web. You should without any problems find something that will suit you.

Train for Ötillö swimrun Malta

The world series race is 38,9 kilometers in total, with 13 swims. The longest is 1600 meters, and the shortest 200 meters long. It will be a great race, both run and swim wise. But we recommend that you focus a bit of extra energy on getting your muscular endurance strong for the long swims in the middle of the race! 

Not to miss

Malta is sometimes referred to as the Los Angeles of the Mediterranian. With movie sets from Game of Thrones, The Gladiator, and Troy. You can take the Malta Film Tour.

Also, try the local soft drink Kinnie, made from bitter oranges and a secret blend of herbs (our guess is that it contains rhubarb and ginseng).

We have a little surprise at the end of the world series race, where you run through an old movie set.

Michael Lemmel

Follow the race

For the sprint and experience races on Saturday, go to the Tower to the east of Golden Sands. And during the world series race on Sunday, best is to go by car, so you can follow the racers during the course.

And of course, if you can’t be on sight to follow the race, Go to Ötillö’s website for live coverage.

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Ötillö swimrun Catalina – With Michael Lemmel

ötillö swimrun Catalina

The island of Catalina is a gem just off the southern coast of California. Being a popular tourist attraction for those who want to get out of the hectic life in Los Angeles. This is the perfect swimrun retreat, with beautiful and varied trail running as well as crystal-clear waters full of marine life. Welcome, to Ötillö swimrun Catalina!


Catalina island in itself is like going to Jurrasic Park.

Michael Lemmel

Travel to Catalina

Although it seems far off the beaten path, it is easy to travel to Catalina. We suggest that you fly to Los Angeles, and from LAX, travel by car to the ferries. The ride will take you about 90 minutes.

The ferries can be a bit choppy, so if you get seasick, as a safety measure you should take something for the fare, it can be bumpy.

Accommodations

There are two cities on the island, Avalon and Two Harbours. The start and finish of the race are in Two Harbours. There will be a chartered ferry traveling from Avalon to Two harbors on race day for the world series. The boat ride takes about 45 minutes.

Most racers will be staying in Avalon.

Here are a couple of hotels that offer special Ötillö swimrun Catalina discounts: The Atwaters, The Pavillion and the Mt. Ada.


We are going to the cradle of endurance racing which is California, and we want to showcase what swimrun should be and is. And how we love swimrun.

Michael lemmel

Not to miss

The Catalina island, due to its remoteness, hosts at least fifty indigenous species. The flora is rich and varied and will be blooming during the race weekend. 

Something that is very special about Catalina is the Bison herd. Brought to the island by movie director Zane Grey to be in his movie The vanishing American. And after production left by the movie company, they populated the island, Nowadays, the population is kept at around 150 individuals. Fun fact, the scenes showing the bison didn’t end up in the movie due to production costs.

Follow the race

Go to the Reef restaurant in Two Harbors, the racers will start, finish and pass there multiple times.

Not on Catalina? Follow the race via Ötillö’s site for live coverage!

Train for Ötillö swimrun Catalina

Catalina has a lot of vertical, don’t take that part of the race lightly. We suggest that you in addition to a solid base in swimrun training also put in extra time for your running strength.

Further reads on swimrun

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Ötillö swimrun 1000 Lakes

Navigation in open water swimming

Listen to race director Michael Lemmel talking about the Ötillö world series race 1000 Lakes in Rheinsberg, Germany.


The 1000 lakes swimrun just north of Berlin is a fast-flat course through forests with almost no underbrush. It has trees growing all the way up to the edge of the water, so there are almost no waves. Running in the forest feels like running through a tunnel of trees.

Michael Lemmel

Travel

Traveling to the race is quite easy. For participants who aren’t local. We suggest that you first travel to Berlin, and from there take the train to Rheinsberg. The train ride takes about 1,5 hours. You can also rent a car and drive approximately 70 kilometers. Book your train tickets here.

Accommodations

Accommodations range from expensive hotels to hostels. There are options for everybody’s taste and budget. A word of advice though. Book as soon as possible. This period is a busy time in the area because of its fantastic nature. 


Going to the place, think about that this used to be part of eastern Germany, and it hasn’t been commercialized. You won’t find a coffee shop in every corner. This is how the world used to be. Also, take a second to feel the energy of the forest.

Michael Lemmel

The race-course is flat and fast. And is accessible for spectators. Rent bike’s to follow the race. Don’t miss out on the Schloss Rheinsberg, where you can take in some local history as well as the race. 

Navigation in open water swimming


Many racers remember the castle from the first year due to the cold. That year the race was six weeks later in the year. Nowadays when you get out of the water and look at the castle with its fantastic sculptures, you can feel the warmth of the old atmosphere.

Michael Lemmel

Training advice for Ötillö 1000 Lakes

Training for this race, you should focus on long intervals. It is a flat course, with long runs, long swims with few transitions between the disciplines. Also, don’t forget to pack all your essentials! Download our Checklist for your swimrun race day.

Lovisa Jönsson will travel to the race together with Anna Karlsson as team TOT Swimrun. They are looking forward to an adventure, and to see the town. “And it will be so much fun cheering on the sprint the day before,” Anna says. “Also, trying the highly recommended vegan burgers” – Lovisa adds.

TOT Swimrun before traveling to Germany for Ötillö 1000 Lakes
Lovisa Jönsson and Anna Karlsson after a local swim competition

A special memory from the race was when the team went out at five in the morning looking for wild boar and listening to the red deer. Just having a break from the race and enjoy nature was spectacular.

Michael Lemmel

Are you up for an adventure? Let us help you reach your training and racing goals. Register your information to get your individual training plan for your next swimrun season!

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Triathlon vs swimrun – The wetsuits

triathlon vs swimrun wetsuit

Wetsuits are a science all by them selfs. What difference is there between different wetsuit, and can you wear a triathlon wetsuit for a swimrun or a swimrun wetsuit for an open water swimming race? In this article, we try to explain the differences and walk through the neoprene jungle.

What is a swimrun wetsuit?

Swimrun wetsuits have the zipper on the front end of the suit, and sometimes they have two zippers – one in front and one in the back for easy dressing/undressing. It is also nicer to have zipped down in front during running, both for cooling down and the breathing. 

Legs are cut above the knees, and the material at the hip is often very thin and soft to enhance the running. Arms on the wetsuit can be long or short, or even detachable. To each their own.  These suits are designed not only for swimming but running in them as well. Therefore, they are not solely optimized for swimming. They often have pockets where you can carry your mandatory equipment.

What is a triathlon wetsuit?

Wetsuits used in triathlons are the same as wetsuits for open water swimming. There are multiple types of suits depending on what type of swimmer you are, more or less buoyancy and mobility depending on the model and your needs. Rules stipulate that a wetsuit used in a triathlon or open water swimming can’t be thicker than five millimeters.

Triathlon vs swimrun wetsuits

So what is the difference between a triathlon vs swimrun wetsuit? In triathlon, there are rules regarding the thickness of the materials used, and the suit can not be thicker than five millimeters giving the swimmer an unfair advantage due to the buoyancy. Since there is no governing body in the swimrun world. Suits can be designed with float panels as thick as you like. Ranging from no extra float aid to maxed out suits with 8 millimeters of neoprene. 

Can I use one wetsuit for both sports?

Can I use my swimrun wetsuit if I want to participate in a triathlon? Sadly, there is not a yes or no answer to this question. Instead, you have to look at your swimrun wetsuit. There are rules regarding some aspects of a wetsuit used in a triathlon. The first is: Is your swimrun wetsuit thicker than five millimeters? If so, it is not allowed. Triathlon wetsuits can’t be thicker than five millimeters. Today, most swimrun wetsuits are thinner than that, but there are still models that cater to the swimmer who likes more buoyancy in their wetsuit. 

I personally have seen people use swimrun wetsuits at races without being disqualified, and if you are not competing for the podium, and instead are in it for the fun of racing. The race marshalls won’t say anything. But to be on the safe side, call the race organization beforehand and check if they are ok with it. I bet that they are more keen on seeing you on the starting line and having a great experience than turning you down because of your wetsuit.

Are you interested in training for a triathlon or swimrun race? Fill out the form below!

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Mandatory equipment for swimming

Mandatory equipment for swimrun

Mandatory equipment for swimming? Almost all races have mandatory equipment for the swim section. And here are some of the usual things to bring. Be sure to read the race information beforehand. 

Do you want to be sure that you have everything you need for your big race? Download the equipment for swimrun – checklist and/or the Triathlon race day checklist

There are differences between sport. In swimrun for example, you will need more equipment due to safety. Since you and your racing partner need to be able to help yourself and each other waiting for aid to arrive. In triathlon, you are seldom far from safety boats or land. Here we take a look at the equipment that usually is part of the mandatory equipment for races.

Mandatory equipment

First aid kit

  • The first aid kit consists of a pressure bandage and adhesive dressing (as a minimum). There are swimrun marketed options if you don’t buy that kind. Take some time to waterproof your first aid kit. If the situation calls for its use. Be prepared! 

Whistle

  • Calling for help can be difficult at sea or when in pain in the woods. It is easier to blow a whistle to get attention. Therefore it is crucial to have it within reach at all times. 

Compass

  • Compass for swimrun. Some races have it as a piece of mandatory equipment (the ÖtillÖ World Championship for one). Some modern sports watches carry a compass function. But check with the race director or athlete contact before you arrive if that is an option. 

Wetsuit

  • Covered in a separate post.  

Swim cap

  • Supplied by the race organization, must be worn during all swims. If you need to wear an extra swim cap or neoprene headband, wear it underneath.  

In triathlon, however, there is less equipment that is mandatory and more regulations around the actual equipment that is allowed. But, there is still some equipment that you will need. And that is that you wear your swim cap for the whole swim, and recommended is the use of a wetsuit. The wetsuit is as said not mandatory but recommended by the race organizations. Wear it between 15,9 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees in ITU races, and up to 24,5 degrees celsius in Ironman races

In swimming races, the mandatory equipment is at a bare minimum. Use the swim cap supplied by the race organization. And often, it is not written, but mandatory because of decency is a swimsuit covering your privates.  

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Ötillö swimrun world championship

swimrun racing

The Ötillö swimrun World Championship is held the first Monday in September every year. It is to swimrun what Kona (Hawaii) is for triathlon. This is the original swimrun, the mother, the monster…the magical race!

“If you are lucky enough to get a spot at Ötillö World Championship, take your time to open up to the atmosphere and the energy of all the racers. The swimrun community is filled with good emotions and energy, try to feed off that!”

Michael Lemmel

Watch our interview with race-director Michael Lemmel

Michael is one of two race-directors, together with Mats Skott he arranges the Ötillö swimrun world championship and the swimrun world series. In this interview, Michael shares his thoughts about the race, the course and his favorite place alongside it.

“The original Ötillö racecourse is a monster. You can’t wrap your head around it. There are 24 islands, that are all different. And the swims vary from nice and calm, to really messy. It is the ultimate swimrun racecourse.”

Michael Lemmel

Starting in Sandhamn, and the very quiet and focused run to the first swim, this is the start of your journey towards the finish line at Utö Värdshus. The first swim, sighting towards a stroboscope on the next island is magical! Swimming as the sun rises and you know you have a fantastic day ahead of you in the Stockholm archipelago is a thrill. The Ötillö swimrun world championship takes you through varied terrain and scenery, everything from the small uninhabited islands to large islands like the infamous Ornö. Where the racers will do the longest run, just shy of a half-marathon.

“Ötillö is such a massive place, and massive course, and massive experience – It changes people’s lives. One thing we should bring with us is that all the emotions, the community and the essence of swimrun emanate from ÖtillÖ World Championship.”

Michael Lemmel
Swimrun team ötillö
Jenny Ramstedt and Anneli Wall at the Ötillö swimrun Utö.

Ötillö is a fantastic combination of a race, just like swimrun is as a sport! The variety of nature, the length of the race and everything that can happen between start and finish.
For me personally, my mood changes as much as nature along with the course changes. I look forward to some parts of the course, embraces changes
Most important always –  to do your best as a team and have fun with your partner! 

JENNY RAMSTEDT

Follow the race live

As a spectator of the race, it can be difficult to follow. You need a boat to get around the massive racecourse. But, thankfully, Ötillö broadcast the whole race live with fantastic commentators! So if you are not one of the lucky enough to be able to race the swimrun world championship. Be sure to follow it via this link. The Ötillö swimrun world championship is something extra, and a great watch!

Individual swimrun training plan

Are you as hyped up as we are for this? Do you want to get into the fun of swimrun? Sign up for a free individual swimrun training plan!

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Individual swimrun training plan

Swimrunners transitioning from water to land

For your training to become relevant, motivating and also help to prepare for an upcoming swimrun race, you will benefit from an individual swimrun training plan.

Whether you are a beginner and ask yourself – How to start swimrun training – or, a seasoned endurance athlete. We know that you want to make the most of your training effort.

How to structure swimrun training?

We help you to structure your training and racing season. Our coaching is based on your previous experience as an endurance athlete, your current .physical capacity and your training goal. With this, we provide you with a periodized swimrun training schedule.

This plan will guide you in how much, how often and how hard you should train.

Sign up for your swimrun training plan

If you want our help to structure your training, register your information in the form below. We will then send you an individual swimrun training plan for free.

If you are a triathlete, use this form instead.

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5 easy steps to create your endurance training program

An introduction to TOT Endurance training philosophy, which helps you create your endurance training program in 5 easy steps.

Anyone who’s ever met an endurance athlete knows that they can be pretty single-minded – they love training and racing and tend to do it hard and often. However, we don’t necessarily believe that this is a fruitful approach. Yes, training is absolutely vital to success in swimrun and triathlon, but what about the quality of that training? 

Let’s face it, training can be pretty addictive, and most athletes enjoy the rush that they get from pushing themselves. However, like everything, this can become a negative, when done to excess. Unfortunately, we meet with too many athletes that assume that if they are not completely exhausted after each training session, then it was a waste of time. Add to this that it is all too common to train in a somewhat random fashion, without a clear race goal or training plan. 

These problems are often compounded when people are new to endurance sports – training for a big race can be a daunting task and if you don’t do it the right way, then you may find it difficult to achieve your goals or even worse, overtraining and getting injured. Note that the above is very common if an athlete trains without structure.

We believe that we can help – by enabling endurance athletes to add structure, shape, and purpose to their endurance training program. Simplifying the things that you need to do to succeed and then helping to design an individual training plan that will allow you to achieve what you want. Thus, we started TOT Endurance, with its sub-brands TOT Triathlon and TOT Swimrun – to help you to train smarter. 

This is the introduction to our article series on how to create your endurance training program and our philosophy about how we formulate our training plans.

Our training philosophy

We like to think about endurance training as a journey – not the kind of journey that you take to work, when all the matters is getting from point a to point b as quickly as possible, but the kind of journey that you take when you are backpacking, where the things that you do along the way are as enrichening as the destination itself.

Our training philosophy builds upon this insight, seeking to give structure, organization, and purpose to your training and racing season. So that you can be as motivated about the training, as you are about the big challenge at the end of it.

The journey is never easy, whether you plan to compete in triathlon or swimrun, whether the race is short, medium or long, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned endurance athlete – you’re always going to face challenges along the way. However, those challenges become infinitely more daunting, if you approach your endurance training program in a chaotic manner.

Yet, it’s difficult and time-consuming to come up with a dedicated training plan. We all face real-world demands from family and work, not to mention all the other unexpected things that can spring up over the course of a season. Sprinkle endurance training on top and you have a serious balancing act on your hands. Professional athletes have teams of coaches and other specialists, so they can just focus on their training schedule, but that isn’t available to most people. 

We want to simplify and democratize endurance sports, opening them up to a far larger pool of people – because we passionately believe that with the right guidance anyone can achieve their endurance goals.

This is where our digital service comes in, acting like a digital coach that gives your endurance training purpose and helps you to achieve your goals. It designs an individual endurance training program based on your needs and allows you to take your training to the next level.

5 steps to successful training and racing

If you’re going to balance everyday life with the rigors of endurance training and racing, then you need a plan. This plan can be complicated or simple, but it needs to be realistic and well thought out. To help you discover this plan, we’ve developed five simple steps that will help you define your starting point, your goal, and your journey to get there. We’ll also help you answer how much, how often, and how hard you should workout. Then collate it all into a dedicated individual endurance training program.

In the following articles, we’ll walk you through – 

How to start endurance training – The best way to begin anything is with a realistic assessment of your own abilities – there’s no point in starting an astrophysics course without basic knowledge of maths. The same is true of endurance training, you need to have a realistic understanding of your physical and mental abilities, so you can make a good self-assessment and start at the right level.

Endurance training and racing – Most training seasons revolve around a main race. So, how do you identify it, and what are your training objectives? Do you have a specific time in mind or would completing it be an achievement in itself?

Training volume in endurance sports – You’ll need to slowly build up your capacity over the course of the season, via a series of training sessions. But how many hours do you need to train to achieve your goal – how much and how often do you need to work out?

Endurance training zones – The intensity of your training is vital. Whether you base your training on heart rate, pace or effect, your training zones are the foundation for all training and racing. How hard do you need to work out? How can you avoid overtraining?

Endurance training plan – Most things in life are about quality rather than quantity. Thus, you need to periodize your training. Training for training’s sake is much less helpful than targeted training with a specific purpose. This is why an individual training plan, with different phases, is so important. When do you train what?

Welcome to TOT Endurance

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Training volume in endurance sports

We discuss how much and how often you need to train during your endurance training season, by focusing on the frequency and duration of your workouts.

We all have an unfortunate habit of assuming that more is always better – more knowledge is better than less knowledge, more money is better than less money, a faster car is better than a slower car. This problem is often more pronounced in successful people, who have spent their entire lives doing more and getting more out of the world. However, despite working in many situations, more isn’t always better. More has the potential to lead to a reduction in quality while doing things to excess can also lead to problems such as addiction.


This is the fourth in our series of articles on our training philosophy, check out the others here –

  1. Our philosophy
  2. How to start endurance training – define your baseline
  3. Endurance training and racing – finding your goal
  4. Training volume in endurance sports
  5. Endurance training zones – intensity in endurance racing
  6. Endurance training plan – how to periodize training

Endurance athletes are particularly prone to such thinking – planning to run for 26 miles, swim for 2.4 miles, and cycle for 112 miles, clearly shows that a person sees some value in the concept of more! This often extends to the volume of training an athlete does – it’s only natural to assume that 12 hours training is better than 11 hours training because 12 is more than 11. However, that fails to take a holistic approach to a training schedule – focussing on the quantity of training, rather than the quality of training.

Quantity vs quality

This debate between quantity and quality occurs in numerous other aspects of our lives. We usually come down on the side of quantity, because it’s much easier to identify quantity than it is quality. Imagine that you are working as a manager in a company and you have a choice between two prospective employees – one will do 40 hours of average work a week, while the other will do 2 hours of exceptional work each week and sit around doing nothing for the other 38 hours.

Every instinct in your body will probably tell you to hire, the worker who will do 40 hours each week because that is a greater quantity and thus, sounds better. However, in many cases, you may actually be better off getting the 2 hours of exceptional work, illustrating the difficulty that we have of selecting high-quality over, high quantity.

Volume vs intensity

The debate between quality and quantity in endurance sports can be simply expressed as – training volume (how much and how often) vs training intensity (how hard). Clearly, both are important, and you will never be able to complete an endurance race without some training volume. However, we believe that the intensity of your training is more important than how much you train. We think that you should judge success according to the quality of the training that you do, as opposed to the amount that you do.

So, instead of seeking to increase the amount that you train each week, we believe that you should seek to improve the quality of your training over time. This is why a periodized training plan is so vital, it allows you to improve the quality of your training in a coherent way and gives structure to your overall schedule. Endurance sports are all about doing the right things, doing them right, and doing them right consistently!

Enjoy the journey

This approach will save you time because you won’t have to keep adding volume to your training schedule each week; ensure that you don’t over-train; and allow you to stay motivated for your training each week. Endurance training is a journey, and you have to enjoy the journey because racing is a very small part of your overall commitment to endurance sports.

Every athlete has training they enjoy and training they do because they have to, and they don’t enjoy so much. Do the training you love, remind yourself why you do it and hopefully, it’ll all come good for you.

Alistair Brownlee, double Olympic champion in triathlon

In this article, we will explain the different parameters that you build your training plan around. Examining two of the following ideas in more detail –

  • How much should I train? – Training duration
  • How often should I train? – Training frequency
  • How hard should I train? – Training intensity

So, if we leave the last variable out for now (more about intensity here), and focus on duration and frequency…

Duration

Duration refers to how many hours you can commit to training. This is usually a highly personal decision, which is impacted by your friends, family and work commitments. Only you can know how many hours that you can commit, however, it’s important to be consistent – there’s no point in training 20 hours one week and 0 the next. 

As we saw in the article on goals, you generally need to commit the following numbers of hours a week to training to prepare for a race –

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  • 6-10 Supersprint/sprint
  • 8-12 Sprint/Olympic/Middle distance
  • 10-12 Middle and long distance
  • 10-14 Long distance

However, this needs to be divided over the sports. Typically, for a triathlon, you’ll need to do double the amount of cycling than the other sports – so, if you plan to train for 8 hours a week, then you need to commit 4 hours to cycling, 2 hours to running and 2 hours to swimming.

Frequency

As a general rule, it’s better to train for a short time and often, than for a long time and seldom. As we said earlier, endurance training is consistent work overtime. You have to gradually build your skills and fitness levels to do well in endurance sports.

Thus, your workouts should reflect this – even if you have scheduled your workouts a certain way that is not possible on a particular day – switch it to another day or shorten it so it can fit into your life.

Volume – the combination of frequency and duration

The training volume is what it is. If you have committed to training a certain number of hours on average, that is your base. Try to stick to this base as much as possible, to avoid the damage that can be done by overtraining or undertraining.  After that, you portion it out during your week to work out training frequency. Remember, when you are short on time, the recipe is to train more often (frequency) with a shorter duration, than to save everything until the weekend (less frequent with a high duration).

Finally, you have to take into account the intensity of the workout. Imagine that you are doing a really tough running session on Tuesday morning. Then, we do not recommend that you do another hard session in the evening. If you are doing two sessions close to each other, see to it that they match so that you can get as much out of it as possible. Training volume in endurance sports is very important. Regardless of if you are training for a sprint distance or a long distance, all endurance sports are built around training in higher volumes at a lower intensity.

Start training smarter

Our digital service will help develop a highly individualized training program. It seeks to understand you as an athlete and then help you find the right duration, frequency and intensity for your endurance training journey. If you’re interested in finding out more, then fill in the form below, or sign up and start training smarter.

If you are a swimrunner, use this form instead.

  • Background

  • In case we need to contact you for follow up questions.
  • Training

  • Enter the date you think you are ready to start with structured training.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
  • A rule of thumb: Sprint (6-10h), Olympic (8-12h), Ironman 70.3 (8-14h), Ironman (10-14h)
  • Racing

  • If you have not yet decided, enter an approximate date.
    Date Format: YYYY dash MM dash DD
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Endurance training zones – intensity in training

The fourth article in our series on endurance sports. We explain what a functional threshold is, how you can use this to measure how intense your workouts should be, and which training zones you should seek to train in.

Intensity levels of endurance training

Training intensity and how to measure it can often seem like an obscure concept that can only really be done by professional athletes and sports scientists. Questions such as “what is the lactic threshold” – appear to be unnecessarily complicated and not worth worrying about during your endurance training journey. However, they’re actually far simpler, than their complex names suggest and play a vital role in ensuring that you make the most out of your training plan.

In this article, we’re going to examine training zones in endurance sports – what they are, how you can measure them, and what they mean, before also looking at how you can implement your knowledge of them into your training schedule.  


This is the fifth in our series of articles on our training philosophy, check out the others here –

  1. Our philosophy
  2. How to start endurance training – define your baseline
  3. Endurance training and racing – finding your goal
  4. Training volume in endurance sports
  5. Endurance training zones – intensity in endurance racing
  6. Endurance training plan – how to periodize training

Functional threshold

The aim of endurance training is simple – to firstly discover your functional threshold, and then improve both the level of it and the period of time that you can operate at it.

So, what is functional threshold?

Your functional threshold is the maximum amount of hard exercise that you can sustain over a specific period of time (usually an hour). When Usain Bolt runs a 100m sprint he is operating significantly above his functional threshold, forcing his body to create energy anaerobically, which produces lactic acid, eventually meaning that he has to slow down. 

Sprint times are an excellent example of just how difficult it is to maintain hard exercise for long periods of time – the world record for 400m is 43.03 seconds, while the world record for 100m is 9.58 seconds. If you multiply the 100m time by four you get a value of 38.32, showing that even the best athletes in the world, can’t operate at maximum effort for around 40 seconds. 

To be an endurance athlete you have to be able to exercise for a lot longer than 40 seconds – meaning that you should forget any notions of going all out, all the time. Instead, you need to discover your personal functional threshold – the intensity of exercise that you can maintain, without having to stop.

How to measure intensity

Training intensity can be measured in the following ways –

  • Perceived effort – A relative measure that can be used for all sports.
  • Tempo – A measure that is usually used for swimming and running.
  • Power – A measure that is used with cycling.
  • Heart rate – A measure that is traditionally used with cycling and running.

Perceived effort

Perceived effort is often measured by the Borg-scale and can be hard to define. It’s a relative measure that allows you to apply a number between 6-20, to the amount of effort it takes you to do a particular activity. The lowest, which would have a rating of 6 would be something like reading a book, whilst the highest, which would have a rating of 20, would be something like the final kick in a sprint race that you really can only maintain for a couple of seconds.

However, there are obviously flaws to this, because our perceptions of how difficult something is can often be incorrect. For example, if you are training with a group, it is easier to get dragged into the “group psychosis” and go with the flow of the group. But, if you don’t have a heart rate monitor, tempo or power meter, then this is your best option.

Tempo

The tempo is measured via the value of speed over a distance. It can be minutes per kilometer in running, time over 100 meters in swimming or kilometers per hour in cycling. This can be a good way of keeping track of your training, but it doesn’t take into account your form on a specific day. 

Imagine that you usually run a 10k in 45 minutes, which gives you a kilometer pace of 4:30 per kilometer. However, on some days, that tempo will be as tough as your usual time splits over a 3k run. You are not suddenly out of shape, but your body is trying to tell you something. Perhaps you have had a bad night’s sleep, are getting sick, or simply have something on your mind that prevents you from focusing? 

We use tempo to measure swim training zones, because it is the most reliable way – heart rate monitors are unreliable in water. This is most commonly expressed as T-pace, which is the amount of time it takes you to swim 100m.

Power

Measuring power is mostly associated with cycling. Though we are seeing a rise of power meters for running, and power meters for swimming exist, but are rare. Your power is measured in watts. Watts is energy over time, fun fact: 1 horsepower is 735 watts. Power helps you to understand the number of calories that you are burning and by measuring the amount of power you produce; you will also gain an insight into how well your cardiovascular system is functioning.

Your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is the maximum amount of power that your muscles can produce, while still being able to remove lactic acid from them. Your aim is to train at this level for a long period of time, which will eventually increase your FTP, allowing you to operate at it for longer.

Heart rate

Heart rate is commonly used to measure your functional threshold for running and cycling. Your aim should be to discover your functional threshold heart rate, which is the maximum heart rate that your body can maintain, while still being able to remove lactic acid from your muscles.

Much like FTP with cycling, you then seek to train at (or below) this level for a long period of time, allowing you to travel at faster speeds over longer periods. Remember, you’re aiming to be an endurance athlete, not Usain Bolt, meaning that your functional threshold will be significantly lower, than your maximum all-out speed.

Using tests zones

To understand where your threshold is, you can do tests. And in our training programs, we regularly do tests in all sports. This is because your functional threshold is specific to each sport, so you might have a higher one for running, then you do for cycling. 

We take test values from –

  • Swimming – Time/100 meter
  • Cycling – Heart rate or power
  • Running – Heart rate or tempo

There is no magical test that will define your functional threshold for all sports. In swimming, you will not be able to get the same puls as in running or biking. And your power on the bike does not apply to your running. That is why you need to do sports specific tests. 

When you have your test scores, it is time to look at what intensity you should train at.

Endurance training zones

Once we have discovered your functional threshold, we will help you break your training down into 5 zones, in each sport, which are defined according to your functional threshold in that sport. We will examine the zones in more detail in a later article, however, as an example for running –

  • Zone 1 – less than 85% of LHTR
  • Zone 2 – 85-89% of LHTR
  • Zone 3 – 90% to 94% of LTHR
  • Zone 4 – 95% to 99% of LTHR   
  • Zone 5 – more than 100% of LTHR

(LTHR – Lactate Threshold Heart Rate)

Training intensity

Most people assume that athletes spend most of their time training in Zone 5 – putting in maximal training effort and reaping huge benefits from it. However, this is totally incorrect – most people should spend little to no time in zone 5, as training in zone 5 for too long, would inevitably lead to burn out or injury. 

You will train in zone 2 for the majority of your training volume, with most athletes spending up to 80% of their training in zone 2. With the remainder divided between zones 3-5. Zone 5 being around 5 – 15 percent depending on where you’re at in your season and your race distance. 

Training in lower zones will give you effect over the whole spectrum. Training in zone 2 and zone 3 will push your functional threshold upwards. This is because of the work done in the lower zones, will widen your range of those zones, and that will help to push your zone 4 upwards. Remember it’s impossible to train in Zone 5 for very long, meaning that the aim of most training programs is to make your scope to go into zone 5 less.  

When doing your training plan, you need to focus on these numbers. If you are unsure about anything in the top end of the zones. We recommend that you focus on zone 2 and zone 4. That will be the most beneficial.

To conclude, your training zones are individual, and not applicable to others. Therefore, you need to keep track of your own progress. Following other people’s training zones, no matter how good they seem, will never help, because your training zones are individual to you.

Do the right thing

We will help you to discover how intense your endurance training should be, allowing you to train smarter. Sign up, today, for an individualized plan that will allow you to add structure and purpose to your training program.

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