Training for the Triathlon: No pain, no gain? Well, not always...

Karl Holbrook at the Footprints Clinic in Kirkham
Karl Holbrook at the Footprints Clinic in Kirkham
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So the training has ramped right up. From a couple of loose sessions here and there, my training programme now sees me put in eight unrelenting runs, swims and bike rides a week.

They range from hour long off road runs to gruelling four hour bike rides and mile long swims.

On some days I’m even having to work out twice for more than an hour each.

So, I should be telling you that I’m knackered, right?

But you know what, I’m not – not in the slightest.

In fact, I feel fresher than I have for months.

And the reason is all down to a bit of science and a £20 strap around my chest.

Triathlon coach Ian Murphy has set me up on a programme based on heart rate training zones, which he calculated by using my maximum and resting heart rates collected from last weeks fitness test.

It all sounds a bit techy but in truth is just means I have to strap on a HR monitor and train within specific zones set by Ian, not allowing my heart rate to drop below or rise above the specific rates.

Now speed and distance have no bearing on how I run or cycle, the only thing that matters is keeping my heart rate in check, which usually means slowing down.

Most of the sessions have been set for me to work out at between 60% and 75% of my maximum rate, which is the perfect zone to build up endurance.

At this lower intensity, I’m able to fuel me muscles using fat and lots of oxygen – and training at this level helps my body adapt, 
improving the ability to deliver oxygen to my muscles and making this process more efficient.

I know, complicated.

But what it really means is that I’m running and cycling much slower, but in doing so I’m able to work more efficiently and am training my body to develop faster.

The beauty of it is that by not having to push myself to my max on each session, I don’t end up feeling mashed and burned out at the end.

It sounds counter intuitive but a valuable lesson has been learned: to train hard, you don’t always have to push hard.

Fancy being an endurance athlete somewhere a little more interesting?

Inspired to combine sightseeing with keeping fit? Try these marathons abroad

TCS NYC Marathon, USA

The world’s largest marathon takes place in New York on November 2, with participants running 26 miles from Staten Island to Central Park. Entry fee costs 347 dollars for non-US residents, with the closing date for applicants on March 18. Visit

Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris, France

With a course stretching along the Seine and past many of the French capital’s top sites, this event on April 6 is a novel way to explore Paris. Up to 40,000 racers take part, and although entry for this year’s race is now closed, it’s still possible to run for a number of charities. Visit

Big Five Marathon, Limpopo, South Africa

Run through a landscape dotted with antelope, giraffes and zebras on this challenging race through the privately owned Entabeni Game Reserve in the Waterberg district of South Africa. Start times for the race, which takes place on June 21, vary depending on the location of game. Places are sold out for 2014, but start saving for 2015. Visit