Episode 68 - 3 Key Training Sessions Every Triathlete Needs To Maximise Performance with Coach John Mayfield
3 Key Training Sessions Every Triathlete Needs to Maximise Performance with Coach John Mayfield
As a triathlete training for not one, but three sports, life can be fairly hectic. So when we’re training, we want to make sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck out of our sessions and that there’s no wasted ‘junk miles’ or sessions that aren’t helping us reach our goals.
Generously sharing his knowledge with me is TriDot coach John Mayfield. Over the past 10 years, John has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first timers to Kona qualifiers and professional triathletes. John walks us through two swim, bike and run sessions you need to be doing. Hang around to the end for his BONUS tips on how to improve your transition.
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Episode 68: 3 Key Training Sessions Every Triathlete Needs To Maximise Performance with Coach John Mayfield
Taryn Richardson 00:04
Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. The show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy-to-digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.
Taryn Richardson 00:36
I've got a bit of a Coaches Corner episode for you today. I'm joined by age group triathlete and TriDot coach, John Mayfield. John has been using TriDot since 2010 - so more than 12 years and coaching with TriDot since 2012. He's coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first timer/ beginners all the way up to Kona qualifiers and our elite professional triathletes. He's got some really great insights into training principles. And what I wanted to pick his brain on today is some of the key training sessions that every triathlete needs to be doing if you want to maximise performance.
Taryn Richardson 01:17
Welcome to the TNA podcast, John and congratulations for a ripping race in Ironman Florida event last weekend. Congratulations. Was that your 10th Ironman?
John Mayfield 01:27
That was my 10th Ironman. So yeah, thank you - appreciate that. It was a good day.
Taryn Richardson 01:31
And PB for you!
John Mayfield 01:32
It was yeah, so I barely squeaked in under 11 hours, which had been my goal for a while. I chased several Ironmen trying to get there under that 11 hour mark. And last Saturday was my day.
Taryn Richardson 01:45
Yeah, well done. 10:57 is still sub 11 hours - claim that. So as an experienced age group, triathlete yourself and you've been coaching for the past, what 10 years? I wanted to get your thoughts on some of the key training sessions that every triathlete should be including in their programming. Now when we have to train for not one but three sports, we can be pretty time poor, right? And want to make sure that we're getting the best bang for our buck out of training - we're not wasting our time doing junk miles or sessions that aren't going to help us reach our goals.
Taryn Richardson 02:05
We know that some athletes maybe do their own programming, some athletes train in a squad environment and have more of a group program. And then others have their own coach - like people like yourself, where they have a very specific detailed and custom training program to help them fit in exactly what they need to within their lifestyle. But it doesn't really matter what method you're using. There's definitely some key sessions that we'll talk about today that you're going to need to do if you want to race in triathlon. So how many sessions do you think we need to talk about that are key essential every triathlete needs to be doing in their program every week?
John Mayfield 02:53
Specifically, we could talk through hundreds, you know, that are important to do and get in there, but they're largely variations of kind of the same thing. So I thought we would talk through a couple of more principles. I brought one for the swim, bike and run, but they largely translate across the board as well. So I have three specific (things) that I, kind of, want to talk through.
Taryn Richardson 03:09
Okay, cool - nice and tidy, neat little package of three. Let's get straight into it then. What is the first key session that every triathlete needs to be doing to maximise their performance?
John Mayfield 03:19
Really, what it comes down to in swimming is to be a good fast swimmer, you have to have good proper technique. So there's the saying that "practice makes perfect", but that's not really the case, especially not in swimming. It's really more "perfect practice makes perfect". You have to do things right in order for them to work properly. So you know, there's the old saying "you can't out exercise a bad diet", that's also true. Like in swimming, you can't out volume, bad technique. And a lot of people try that. You know, they just think if I go and I swim, more and more and more, I'm eventually just going to get better. There's a little bit of maybe some truth or maybe a little bit of mistruth in that.
John Mayfield 03:56
In that, especially starting out early, you start to figure out some things. You can read some articles and make some adjustments and kind of figure out what works and what doesn't. Then as you do that, you know, you may see some improvements initially, but that's going to plateau very, very quickly. But then what we'll see is people just try to do more - if some volume is good, more is better. That's a very common thought process in triathlon training.
John Mayfield 04:21
A lot of times athletes see more seasoned athletes or even professionals doing this tremendous amounts of volume. And I think that's where the gains are to be made. But especially in the swim, it really comes back to technique. It's critical to have good proper technique, good skills. And that's really where drill sessions really come in. So those drills are going to reinforce the keys of swimming, those things that are going to move us through the water quickly and efficiently, then you can build the volume as necessary. But to be a good fast swimmer, it really is all about technique.
John Mayfield 04:53
A lot of triathletes get into swimming as adults so they don't have that background. So they get in the pool and just try to figure things out and in doing so, they establish a lot of bad habits. So that's the advantage those kids have - is they're not having to overcome those bad habits. They're starting off with good technique - they have that coach instilling in them the proper way proper technique. So that's really what we want to focus on, especially for newer triathletes.
Taryn Richardson 04:59
You either come from two camps, right? You swim as a kid, so swimming comes natural to you, and you don't struggle with technique, or you've come to swimming later in life as an adult and you're having to learn how to do that. And swimming's actually really difficult.
John Mayfield 05:28
So (what) we're able to do is improve our pace through technique, and then improve the efficiency. So initially, what we want to do is move through the water faster. And then once we get proficient and moving through the water quickly, we want to do so with less energy expenditure. So it's about generating that speed and then generating that speed at a lower energy costs. So becoming more efficient as moving through the water. So a lot of this is done through drills, which are going to reinforce that proper technique.
John Mayfield 05:53
There's a couple of things that are pretty universal, that we want to work on - hand entry, high elbow catch, early vertical forearm - kind of those different things. But I think a critical component of this is, again, kind of going back to doing the right things right. It's not enough just to go and do a drill in a session. You need to 1. make sure the drill is going to be beneficial for you. So not all drills are going to be beneficial for all swimmers. Drills are made to reinforce certain things. And if a swimmer is already doing those, or maybe even overdoing some things, a drill that reinforces that is going to be counterproductive for them. And then you have to do those drills right.
John Mayfield 06:31
So it goes back to kind of not 'practice making perfect' but 'perfect practice making perfect' because if you're doing the drill wrong, then it's not going to be beneficial for you. So it's critical to identify what are the drills that are going to help you improve your swim technique, and then really learning how to do those drills properly so that they can be beneficial. So you can develop that muscle memory. So you can develop the strength along with that.
John Mayfield 06:52
I am a big fan of dryland exercises, specifically dryland tubing. So these are using resistance bands. They have some that are swim specific and dryland tubing is really beneficial in two ways: 1. it builds strength - so it's mimicking the muscles used to catch and pull that water - to move through it. And even does so, I would say, more efficiently. So you can actually build strength through those dryland tubing sessions.
John Mayfield 07:18
But then it's also much easier to identify your technique and work on technique when you're not under water. Sometimes what you think you're doing and what you're actually doing are two different things. So this dryland tubing is a great opportunity to really see what you're actually doing. And then develop there that muscle memory that is so critical in swimming. So this is fantastic for those time crunched athletes, like so many of us are.
John Mayfield 07:40
I would say on average, these sessions take anywhere from five to 10 minutes. So super easy to do. These are one of my favorites. They go on a door handle or really any solid object, you can wrap it around. And I know even if I can't get to the pool, I can take 10 minutes and knock out a really good session that is going to mimic what I would have done in the pool. Obviously, it is important to get in the water and do it.
John Mayfield 08:02
But this is actually something we did a research study back during the pandemic when everything was shut down. So largely worldwide, no one had access to a pool. So what do we do when we don't have access to a pool? Well, we knew that through our years of experience and research that this dryland tubing was highly effective in building and retaining the swim threshold. So we had several hundred participants that took part in this. And we had them go back to what was the last baseline hundred that they had done. Everyone had a little bit different time. The minimum was like six weeks, but most had more like six months that they were out of the pool. But they were doing these dryland exercises three times per week.
John Mayfield 08:39
We were prescribing different sessions every Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Once they were able to get back in the pool, we had them do three swim sessions, just kind of get the proprioception back, get a feel for the water and retest that hundred. And the average was like two seconds slower. Now the stamina wasn't there. But that stamina actually comes back pretty quick. What is hard to develop is that technique, the muscle memory, all those kinds of things.
John Mayfield 09:02
So I would say the key session on swimming is really focusing on technique. And a great way to do that is combining your swimming with good drills and adding in that dryland too.
Taryn Richardson 09:13
The swimming is a great key session and I am blessed with a long history of swimming. I think I could swim before I could walk. And so I don't have to think about how I put my hands in the water or any of that sort of stuff. But it's kind of like riding a bike as an adult as well. You can see people that didn't ride a bike as a kid . And that takes a little bit of time to get comfortable doing that. So I love that that is a key session.
Taryn Richardson 09:36
And also I love the suggestion to do some dryland technique stuff because, yeah, if you travel a lot, you're busy, you're away, you may not have access to a pool - or sometimes it's just bloody freezing in winter and you don't want to get in - there is an option that can maintain that technique with the dryland band. So that's awesome. So that swim technique side of things - how often should somebody be including a technique session into their programming? And how would you identify what sort of drills that you need to be doing to make your technique better?
John Mayfield 10:08
Every session needs to have some technique work in it, because even as you mentioned, those that have years of experience and have great muscle memory, that can lapse, or you can develop some new patterns or new new muscle memory, that may not be correct. So it's always important and a good idea to reinforce that proper technique through drills. So I would say never go away from drills completely.
John Mayfield 10:30
You know, the more experienced and proficient you are as a swimmer, the more time you can spend on building threshold, building stamina, whatever it is that you're going to be doing. But it's always a good idea to include at least a certain amount of technique work in there. Maybe it's, you know, the first 15 minutes of one session per week, or for those that are relatively new to swimming, it may be two thirds of the session three times a week, kind of depending on where you're at, in your swim experience/swim journey. How much work do you need to do? How good is your proprioception? How quickly do you learn?
John Mayfield 11:00
You know, that's certainly an aspect to it as well. Some swimmers have very high proprioception. These are a gift to work with as a swim coach, because you can say, "You need to put your hand right here and do this motion", and then they do it and they never do anything else. Other people will say "I thought I was doing that", "I'm trying really hard to do that", and they're doing absolutely nothing like that. So for those, they're going to need more time to really develop that field of proprioception - to kind of have that spatial awareness of what their body is doing.
John Mayfield 11:27
So I would say for those newer swimmers, it really needs to be a focus - is developing that really good stroke, as, before you try to build a whole lot of speed or stamina around it - really focus on the technique. But even for those that have been swimming for years, it's still important to make sure that you're maintaining that good technique. And again, the vast majority of swimmers still have opportunities for improvement. There are small things that we can do - small tweaks that can be made - that oftentimes can have a little breakthrough. You know, you may be stalled in your progress for even a number of years and there may just be some small thing that you don't even realise that you're doing or a small improvement, small tweak that can lead to big gains.
John Mayfield 12:03
And that's really where it's great to have a knowledgeable coach that can look at your stroke, see what you're doing and then prescribe those drills as I talked about. It's not just about doing random drills. It's about doing drills that are going to help you and improve your stroke. So having that knowledgeable resource that can prescribe those drills and help you identify what are the drills that are going to be beneficial for you as for those that may even be counterproductive?
Taryn Richardson 12:25
Yeah, that's why triathlon is so addictive, right? Because there is always something that you can do a little bit better. And that's across three sports, not one. So definitely very addictive, if you have that high achieving, competitive type nature, which a lot of triathletes do have. Okay, so that's an excellent key session.
Taryn Richardson 12:43
My only thought is - I'm going to play devil's advocate here - because I know a lot of triathletes hate swimming, they suck at swimming, because it's not their strength. And it is the shortest part of a triathlon too and so they're like "Awh, stuff it. I'll just focus on my run, because that'll give me a better overall result". But the better you are at swimming the more efficient you are, the better your technique is, the less that is going to wear you out so that by the time you get on the bike, you're not absolutely exhausted and struggling for that first bit. So any advice from a coach's perspective on those people that are listening going "Awh, stuff it. I'm just going to focus on the back end of my race where I'm going to make up more time"?
John Mayfield 13:21
There is some truth to that! You know, statistically, the bike is the longest and a lot of times, there's more to be made up on the bike and the run. So there's certainly some logic and even truth to that. And that's really where technique comes in. Because technique isn't all about speed, it's also about that efficiency. So if you're coming out of the swim so far back, that you can't be competitive - if you are an athlete that's wanting to get on the podium, qualify for championship races, that sort of thing, that your swim is holding you back and you're getting out of the water so far back that even if you have a great swim, great bike, you're not there, then obviously that's that's a huge deal.
John Mayfield 13:53
Or, kind of, as you mentioned, if you are expending so much energy on the swim, that you're not meeting your potential on the bike and run then obviously you're wasting a lot of potential there. If you've, you know, got that strong bike, got that strong run but if you're just gassed - your heart rate is through the roof, you're burning a tonne of calories 1. because you've been in there so long and 2. you've been working so hard. It's all about reaching your potential. So that really comes back to mindset. We see that a lot.
John Mayfield 14:17
That's something that I've had to deal with over the years because I'm not a natural swimmer. It's not my favourite. But I would say it's my mindset has changed over the years - I've really enjoyed swimming more and more. So you know, take it as a challenge. As we said, triathletes are competitive. And this is a great opportunity for you to compete with yourself. Just make yourself go to the swim - resolve to be a better swimmer, resolve to do whatever it takes to become a fast efficient swimmer. Keep working at it, keep plugging away and you'll make those breakthroughs and then you know, be coming out with the front pack swimmers.
Taryn Richardson 14:53
Yeah. Love it. Love it. So what is your second key session that we need to do as a triathlete?
John Mayfield 14:59
Moving on to building thresholds on the bike. So really, the bike is all about the FTP - that functional threshold power. So whether you're racing short course, long course - it really comes back to how much power can you generate? What are those watts per kilogram that are going to carry you throughout triathlon? We tend to think of long course. And there, it's all about stamina, because those bike legs are so long, whether it's a 70.3, or full distance triathlon, it's a long way to go. So you have to have a high amount of endurance, a high amount of stamina.
John Mayfield 15:32
But as important as that stamina endurance is, what's going to determine your time - how quickly you go, how efficient you are - is how much power you can generate relative to your weight, aerodynamic drag, and all those things. So it's really about building the functional threshold power. And the great thing is - what I love about focusing on threshold - and this is true for the swim, bike and run 1. it lasts a long time. So I say your stamina is kind of easy to build in just six, eight, ten weeks - you can build a very high amount of stamina. But it takes longer to build threshold. But as soon as you lay off those long sessions, your endurance is going to drop, you're going to feel it - that stamina doesn't stick around as long - it's not as sticky. What I love about threshold is it tends to stick around longer.
John Mayfield 16:15
So it takes a little longer to build but once you have it, you tend to retain it for longer periods of time, so it's easier to make those continual gains. So when you are properly training and focusing on building that functional threshold power, it's a great opportunity to have just a long lead of gains - over the months, over the years, over the seasons - so you can increase that power throughout the season. And then year over year continue to get stronger and stronger. And that's really true on the swim, bike and run. And the great thing about this too, especially for the time crunched athlete, is it doesn't take a whole lot of time to focus on this. In fact, by definition or by nature, we can only hold these higher intensity sessions for limited amounts of time.
John Mayfield 17:01
So what I'm going to say for a key session on the bike, building the functional threshold power is anywhere from 10 minutes to 40 minutes, or what I would call a Zone 4 power. So this is give or take, around that functional threshold power number. So the standard definition of functional threshold power is 60 minute maximum power, which you can sustain for 60 minutes. And there's different ways to determine that.
John Mayfield 17:25
The ... probably the most popular is that 20 minute power test doing an all out max for 20 minutes to see what power you can sustain for 20 minutes - extrapolate that over 60 minutes. And that is one way of estimating what your functional threshold power is. And then holding that in those sessions. Not a lot of fun. But also, if you do those on a regular basis, there's benefit to it. So 1. you're doing that hard session, and it only takes 20 minutes, right? So we're talking about efficiency with time here. So you do say a 20 minute warmup, you do that 20 minute power test, 10 minute cooldown, you know, there's your 15 minute session. So you're in and out, you've had a very effective session. And 1. you've updated your FTP numbers - you know what that is, and 2. you've gotten a great training session in.
John Mayfield 18:08
And in addition to that, you've learned how to suffer. So that's something I think a lot of times we overlook, is - there is a certain aspect to triathlon, that is building that grit, that tenacity. And doing those really hard sessions provide some of that. So you get the physical training but there's also that mental aspect to it as well, especially in short course. I always say the person who is willing to hurt the most and hurt the longest is going to win the race. And you know, that's a critical component to the race, as well - is developing that.
John Mayfield 18:11
So again, those sessions are anywhere, I would say, at least 10 minutes at that threshold power, up to 40 minutes would be kind of the max that you would want to do have that threshold power in one session. And then we can break that down. So I'm not suggesting you do 1 x 40 minute session. But you know, if you're to that point, you know, 2 x 20 minutes, with a couple of minutes of recovery in between, that's a great session. And you're going to build a lot of power in there.
John Mayfield 19:09
And what I would say is start off smaller - maybe that's 10 minutes, maybe it's 3 x 5 minutes at that power with two or three minutes of recovery in between each of those. So now you're getting 15 minutes of that threshold power - that Zone 4 power, a couple minutes of recovery in between, and then build as you go throughout a cycle. You know, maybe it's a 4, 6,8 week cycle that you're doing - increase the amount of time - so maybe it's 3 x 5, then 3 x 7, then 3 x 10. Maybe it's reducing the amount of recovery in between. So maybe it's starting with the three to four minutes recovery in between and dropping that down to something like 2 x 20 minutes with two minutes recovery in between and then repeat that functional threshold test.
John Mayfield 19:48
Now your functional threshold is going to be higher. So you kind of start that cycle over where maybe you're back to 3 x 5, but you know your wattage is increased - so the wattage that you were holding previously, you're now maybe a couple watts higher than that - that would be the expectation. And the goal is to repeat that cycle over and over, but repeat it at a higher wattage than you were before. And then 2. I love trainer turbo work, especially from that efficiency, time crunch standpoint - it's just quicker and easier to hop on the bike indoors than to go through all the things you have to go through outdoors. So I'm a big advocate for that.
John Mayfield 20:30
And this is always something too - they say, "Well, what about I'm racing a real hilly course, I'm racing a course with a tonne of elevation - how do I duplicate that?" So I always say - there's a couple things here - the body doesn't know distance. So you can go 0.0 miles and still have a great session. Your body knows time and it knows intensity. So that's how we duplicate the distance. But the same thing is true with elevation. Your body doesn't know whether you gained, you know, 500 meters of elevation gain, or zero meters of elevation gain - it understands time and intensity. So we can even duplicate those hilly courses on an indoor session by varying the cadence.
John Mayfield 21:11
So basically, to climb a hill, generally, it's an increase in power. And generally, it's a decrease in cadence. So, you know, if you're going to be racing on that hilly course, you want to get in plenty of these threshold sessions, and just drop your cadence down. And your body doesn't know that you went 0.0 miles or kilometres, and gained zero feet, or zero metres of elevation gain. But those adaptations are still going to be there, and still going to be ready for that race course.
Taryn Richardson 21:41
Another great session! And again, kind of going down the path of 'there's always little bits that you can improve' ... so this FTP - like building that on the bike, it never ends, it just keeps going. So when you're talking about putting those sessions into a week, are we looking at doing a session like that every week or every couple of weeks? How often should we be doing that?
John Mayfield 22:00
It's going to vary depending on the athlete, and their ... what they're training for. The great thing is a short course athlete can almost focus on this exclusively. Obviously, we want some recovery in there as well. And it's going to vary based on the athlete. Typically, the younger, more competitive athletes have a higher capacity for this higher intensity work. Older athletes, you know, we need to be careful with how much we're prescribing for those. But it just needs to be appropriate to the athlete, and then what kind of racing that they're doing.
John Mayfield 22:34
But I would say one to two sessions per week - potentially even a third, kind of depending exactly on how your training is prescribed, what your frequency and sequence of all those sessions are. But you know, when it's properly prescribed with the proper amount of intensity, the proper rate of intensity, and then the proper amount of recovery in between, you know, we can do these several times a week. I would say anywhere (from) two to three times a week on the bike specifically.
Taryn Richardson 23:02
Awesome. And I guess from my perspective, that is a key session where we need to support that maximally with nutrition. You're not going to be able to absorb those types of training sessions, particularly if they're multiple times a week, if you haven't got your nutrition sorted around those types of things. So we want to try and recover and back up quickly. And that's not going to happen if you don't put those right building blocks in there. So I love that it's a key session. And even if a triathlete listening is just thinking, "Okay, that's the RED session in my week, that's the session, I really need to support the most with nutrition", and work on that one first before you start tackling the other sessions in your week - because that is like a key performance driver that's going to make us a better triathlete, overall.
John Mayfield 23:45
That's nutrition before, during and after. So certainly critical to the sport of that session.
Taryn Richardson 23:51
Amen. Okay, so we've got two great key sessions so far - swimming technique and building that FTP on the bike. What's our third session that every triathlete needs to be including?
John Mayfield 24:02
This is one of my favourites - probably my favourite session of the week, and for a couple of reasons here - is the run off the bike. There's something about it. I think, running off the bike for me again, I've been a triathlete for well over a decade now. I've been running off the bike for a number of years, and my body knows how to do that.
Taryn Richardson 24:21
It's definitely a skill, isn't it?
John Mayfield 24:23
Absolutely. And that's one of the reasons to do it - is to develop the ability to do it and to do it well - to teach the body what it is like, because it is very different than just starting off from a cold run and going out that way. So in my state of triathlon, I've gotten pretty good at it. And for me, it's just kind of a natural progression I have from the bike to the run. And for me, it's just a super fun session. 1. I've got this great warm up you know? I am on the downside of the 40+ group so, you know, my body appreciates that longer warm up, as opposed to, you know, just starting off cold and doing a normal run warm up.
John Mayfield 25:03
But you know, if you're going into an hour bike session and then doing a run off, certainly the body is in a very warm state at that point, so it's just conducive to that. And you know, especially when you've got that good cadence on the bike, your feet and legs are used to that higher turnover rate. So that's a great opportunity, especially if you have, kind of, an unnaturally low cadence, this is a great opportunity to work on that. Build the cadence on the bike, especially, you know, kind of 80 to 90, preferably probably closer to 90, if we're looking to run off afterwards.
John Mayfield 25:36
So the great thing about these two, especially for those time crunched athletes, is the run off the bikes don't need to be long. I see this is actually a fairly common mistake that triathletes will make. And it's one of those things that's kind of intuitive. You know, if I'm going to be running 5kms off the bike in my race, or running a marathon off the bike in my race, then maybe I need to do that in training. But really to get those adaptations that we're looking to achieve by these off the bike run sessions, they happen very quickly. So you know, especially for that new person who's not used to that sensation of running off the bike, the legs are going to be very heavy, the feet are going to be very heavy. But that goes away, generally quickly. You know, within the first couple of minutes.
John Mayfield 25:36
So everyone's cadence is a little different, but kind of rule of thumb is, you know, give or take that 90 steps, 180 steps per minute. When you reinforce that on the bike, it's going to translate over to the run. So spin those pedals at 90 rpm, and then when you jump off and start to run, your legs are going to be used to that 90 rpm cadence. So a great opportunity there to focus on that. That's especially important in the shorter course racing, where you're coming off and going into that dead sprint, running as fast as you can off the bike.
John Mayfield 26:58
Your body has adapted to running, it's getting used to the feel of running, and you're good to go so far as that is. So for me, I say rule of thumb, 20 minutes off the bike is really all you need for a high quality, run off the bike session. For me my longest - like I said, I just raced Ironman, over this past weekend- my longest run off the bike was 40 minutes. And for me that was much more about dialling in my pacing and my nutrition, as I was starting to run, as opposed to just developing that feel. So that feel was there it was - you know, the first kilometre or two, I was kind of dialling that in. And after that, my focus was more so on dialling in my nutrition, my hydration, my pace - all of those things.
John Mayfield 27:40
So I did just a couple of those after those long bike sessions to have that dialled in. But yeah, as a rule of thumb, whether it's a 60 minute session during the week or after my longer/long bike on the weekend, my rule of thumb is 20 minutes off the bike. But I would say the less experienced athlete, I would say do this more frequently. So even if they're short, for a new triathlete, I would say do a couple minutes off of every bike session - just to really develop that adaptation, develop what it feels like to run off the bike and run off the bike well. So you know, again, just leave the running shoes there, throw them on - treadmill, or head out on the road just for 10 minutes, after a session is going to be beneficial.
John Mayfield 28:26
The more experienced the athlete - less frequently. So for me over this last training cycle, for me, I generally would just do a run off after that long bike session. I am that time crunch athlete. So I would forgo that during the week. But make sure to get that in on that weekend session.
Taryn Richardson 28:41
It's a really good point - like you don't have to run a marathon to run a marathon. So it's good to hear that advice from, you know, somebody that's got knowledge and skills in this space - that it's just about managing your overall load and injury risk, right? And you can get those adaptations really quickly to understand how the body works when you then go from cycling to then running and it's a completely different thing. How do you go with the flying dismount? Do you do that of every, like, run off the bike? Or do you actually stop and put your gear down and then transition into a run?
John Mayfield 29:10
I recommend it. I think that is something that can be quite efficient, especially in the shorter course races. But also, I mean, that could also be true in the long course races as well, especially if you're on that pointy end of the competitive end of the spectrum. If you're looking to make podium or qualify for those championship races. Oftentimes seconds matter and that can help there. For me, I also just think it's easier for me to run through transition barefoot as opposed to in my cycling shoes. I hate running in cycling shoes. So for me, that's just another reason to develop that ability - to do that flying mount or flying dismount.
John Mayfield 29:44
I will say that the dismount I think is probably easier and a little less intimidating than the mount. You definitely want to practice, practice, practice. I say practice on the trainer, where it's much more harder to take a spill, practice on the trainer and then kind of just in a grassy area - someplace soft if you do fall. Certainly not for the first time in a race. But yeah, I mean, there's a lot of good resources out there - YouTube videos, kinds of things that show exactly - it doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to be super, super fast either. I actually don't do a true flying mount, because I actually will stop very, very briefly and I actually step over my top tube, I have my shoes in the peddle using those rubber bands to hold it in position.
John Mayfield 30:26
And then it takes half a second for me to step over that top tube, I'm on my shoe, and then I'm off and putting the shoes on generating some some power, some speed, momentum early on, and then once I'm kind of up to speed, then I can put my feet into the shoes. And so it's still very efficient, it saves time. But for me, it's a little lower risk. And you know, it may take me a second or half a second longer, but I have a pretty good confidence that I'm not going to embarrass myself too bad there at the mount line.
John Mayfield 30:57
And then same thing on the dismount line - it's really about getting out of the shoes in plenty of time. That's something that we see as a pretty common mistake: athletes will wait too long, or they'll kind of fumble with their shoes, are not efficient in getting their feet out. And I would say the critical components on both the mount and the dismount is ensuring that you can do so with your eyes up. That's when bad things happen. But we have a tendency to look down at what we're doing, you know, if we're trying to put our foot into a shoe that's mounted to a bike pedal, or if we're trying to mess with straps or anything like that, we want to look down and see what we're doing.
Taryn Richardson 31:32
It's definitely where the most carnage is in a race, isn't it - that mount and dismount line?
John Mayfield 31:36
Yeah, especially some of those like sprint and Olympic distance races, it can be entertaining to see exactly how people choose to mount and dismount their bike.
Taryn Richardson 31:44
Yeah, I love a good flying dismount. It's like the funnest part of a race for me. But I do what you do, I put rubber bands on my shoes and like just to kind of do a quick step over. In any Ironman distance event like that, that full distance, 140.6 - that one second to do that is nothing over that whole duration of the race and way less risky. So the flying mount would become much more important if you're aiming to go fast in a sprint and Olympic distance race.
John Mayfield 32:12
Yeah, and that's really where it matters. But you know, it's what you're comfortable with. I would say that's the number one key is, you know, don't be pressured to do it. You know, you don't have to do it to be a triathlete or anything like that. You know, I've worked ... I've coached professional triathletes that aren't comfortable doing it, and they don't. You know, they'll put their shoes on in the change tent. You know, it doesn't take that much longer.
John Mayfield 32:31
Even the pros are out there for give or take four hours on the bike. And if taking 30 seconds to a minute to put your shoes on in transition is you know, that's ... you get them somewhere else. You know, it's definitely not a win or lose kind of thing. It could come down to that. But it's pretty rare that we see those races decided by such a small factor.
Taryn Richardson 32:49
And hey, if you work on your swimming technique a little bit, you can make up that second really easily. Right?
John Mayfield 32:54
Taryn Richardson 32:55
So for a fourth bonus tip - is there anything that we can do to train our transition? I know we've just talked about mounts and dismounts. I'm really passionate about triathletes getting the heck out of transition - they muck around so much in there and waste so much time. Is there any little bonus tips you've got, to help make that transition process faster, smoother, easier?
John Mayfield 33:14
Yeah, a couple things here. And I will say I've never been all that fast swimming, cycling or running but I can transition like a ninja so, so now we're kind of getting into my wheelhouse! I can transition with the best of them - can't swim, bike or run with the fast guys, but my transitions are pretty good. And they are, I would say, for two main reasons. One, is minimising the amount of movements that I make in transition. So we want to have a clear thought out process of what are the things that I need in transition, and what are the things I need to do.
John Mayfield 33:43
So like for me, I come into transition. Transition one, I have my helmet there, I have my glasses, my, as we talked about, my shoes are already on the bike. So all I have to do is put on my helmet, put on my visor, and I'm headed out. So I have everything set up. So like my helmet is set up in a way on my bars - and it'll vary based on the transition setup and you know if it's windy and I may put my helmet on the ground - but it's set up in such a way that I just pick it up and put it directly on my head. So I'm thinking about even which way the helmet is oriented - to where it's just very simple - put it on, you know, not thinking about a whole lot, not doing a whole lot.
John Mayfield 34:20
And then I don't have a bunch of stuff sitting around either to distract me. The only thing there in T1 - on top of my bike - helmet, visor, and then I'm gone. So it's about minimising the amount of stuff you have in transition and then minimising the amount of movements that you have to make. And then it's about practice. Know what you do and then just get really good at doing it. For me there's a couple more steps in my T2, but kind of the same thing. And I love this tip, is ... especially if you wear a cap out on the run... that cap is a great little bag that can actually put a bunch of stuff in and go with you.
John Mayfield 34:55
So instead of like my race number belt, I will put that in my cap. My sunglasses go in my cap. If I'm carrying any nutrition gels or anything like that, all of that goes in my cap. So I slip on my run shoes real quick. For me, my preference is short course racing, sprint, Olympic, I use elastic laces. If I'm racing 70.3 or Ironman distance, I'll take those couple of extra seconds to actually tie. I feel a little bit better with the laces. So depending on which distance I'm racing is going to determine which laces I have.
John Mayfield 35:25
But especially in those short course races, where I'm really trying to minimise my transition time, basically, I get my shoes on with those elastic laces, and then I grab that cap that has everything in it. And then as I'm running out of transition, I can throw in my sunglasses, I can put on my race number belt, and you know, once everything is empty, then the cap goes on my head, and I'm good to go. So instead of standing there at my bike, doing all those things, I'm actually doing them as I'm moving through.
John Mayfield 35:51
Another tip is, and this is one of those, like, fraction of a second kind of things, but instead of using that race number belt and buckling it around your waist, you can start with that already buckled and then just kind of put it on over your head. So it's again, one of the things to practice and get good at. But this takes like two times practicing and you'll nail it. You've just got to kind of get your arms through it, and then it's around your waist. But it's super easy to do while you're running. It's easier to do that while running at a transition than it is to buckle that race number belt. And you know, especially in that short course race, now where seconds really can matter. That could conceivably be the distance between first place second place, or even falling off the podium.
Taryn Richardson 36:34
So many great tips there, John, it makes me want to race again. It's been a while since I've raced you know, because kids have been a bit of a spanner in that for me - this body's not ready to race yet. But I do all of those things and it makes me feel really excited that that is what good athletes are actually doing out there.
Taryn Richardson 36:50
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with me today, John - and the listeners. I know that there's some really good, gold nugget tips in there and some key things that they can implement straightaway to make sure they're maximising their training programs - with things that actually matter. Things that are going to push the needle - because your programming can be really full, you might work full time, you probably have family commitments as well. And you know, we need to be making sure that we're getting the best bang for our buck out of our sessions.
Taryn Richardson 37:17
And you've just gone through some really great things - through swim, bike, run, and then, you know, bonus transitions to make our race day as fast and efficient as possible, because that's what we do it for right? Like, yeah, we want to have a great time and be social but at the end of the day, we put in all these hours training to maximise our performance on race day. And it doesn't mean necessarily hitting the podium - it could just be doing better than the last time or it could mean getting to the finish line in one piece. But some really great tips there to start to think strategically about your programming and make sure that what you're doing counts. So what's next on the cards for you then? You've just done an Ironman. I know you've had a busy racing schedule over the last sort of six months. But what's next for John Mayfield?
John Mayfield 38:00
So I have one more race this season and it is a middle distance race in Daytona, Florida. It's at the Daytona International Speedway. It's Clash Daytona which is part of the challenge family. We're actually camping in RVs in the Daytona speedway. So that's something I've not done before. But they bill it is a great thing - you basically are sleeping right next to transition. So you roll out of bed and you're in the transition area. So it's a great race, a tonne of fun, kind of iconic for the motorsports folks.
Taryn Richardson 38:28
Oh amazing. Well good luck for that one. And if people want more, what's the best way to connect with you?
John Mayfield 38:33
Email is great. [email protected] or on Facebook as well. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm on the backside of 40, so I'm not so much on some of those other social media channels, but you can still find me on Facebook.
Taryn Richardson 38:57
Alright, well thank you so much again, John. I hope the listeners really enjoyed that as much as I did.
John Mayfield 39:02
Yeah, my pleasure. I enjoyed it and I hope they benefit from it as well.
Taryn Richardson 39:08
Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned, email me at [email protected] You can also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media, @dietitian.approved, so I can give you a shout out, too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to www.dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition!
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John is a USAT Level II and Ironman U certified coach who leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs.
Email: [email protected]