How to choose choose triathlon swim gear by Chrissie Wellington

For my first-ever triathlon in 2006 I borrowed a wetsuit that didn’t fit and it promptly flooded, resulting in me having to be rescued by a kayaker. Since then I’ve gained a little more experience in open water (OW)!

Wetsuits (or wetties) are made of neoprene, which allows a very thin layer of water between skin and suit. This water warms and the insulation keeps you warm. Of course, it is important that as little water as possible enters the suit and is not being constantly replaced by cold water flushing through.

This is why wetsuits should fit snugly. In addition to warmth, wetsuits provide buoyancy, assist in better form and technique, reduce drag and help protect against sharp objects, including flailing limbs.

What to look for in a triathlon wetsuit

 How much buoyancy does your triathlon wetsuit need?

Choosing a wetsuit

Fit

Trying before buying is crucial when first purchasing a wetsuit and/or if your body shape has changed significantly. Remember that not all manufacturers use the same body proportions – so a medium in one may be totally different to a medium in another. There are women’s specific suits, although I know of many women who actually prefer men’s suits due to their body type. 

Neoprene is a stretchable fabric that loosens with wear and relaxes in water, so make sure that the fit is snug when you first try it on, as this will be tightest it will ever be. A properly fitting wetsuit will make contact over most of the area it covers, leaving as little space as possible between it and your skin. 

Thicker material is generally used in the chest, stomach and legs to help with buoyancy. The thinner and generally more flexible material should be around your shoulders and arms to allow for freer, unrestricted movement. Make sure you have a good arm reach. 

The neck should not be too high or feel constrictive, although there should be a good seal to prevent the wetsuit ‘flooding’ with water (the same goes for the wrists). 

I often cut the legs of my wetsuits by an inch or two to make it easier to slip over my large feet in transition.

Chrissie Wellington running into the sea

Price

Suits range from an entry-level around the £250 mark through to top-end suits for £750 or more that any pro would be delighted to use. I would opt for a mid-range wetsuit, unless your budget is very tight, and a top of the range wetsuit if your coffers are overflowing with cash. 

Triathlon wetsuits: 14 of the best tested and rated

If you’re on a budget it’s worth looking into end-of-year or end-of-range bargains in the winter sales or considering an ex-hire suit. 

Sleeved or Sleeveless

As long as the wetsuit fits properly, 99% of the time a swimmer will be faster in a full wetsuit. And that’s the key – the wetsuit must fit properly so as not to be constrictive around the shoulders and arms. 

Although you may be slightly more mobile in a sleeveless wetsuit, it can be hard to get a good seal around the armpit and shoulder, and hence an increase risk of water entering the suit as you swim, increasing drag, chafing and exposure to cold water.

Men or women with really big arms may find it hard to find a sleeved wetsuit to fit, but I believe that if you shop around there should be a sleeved wettie to ….errrm…suit nearly everybody.

Chrissie Wellington in open-water swim training

A sleeved wetsuit will provide more warmth, and if the water is coolish there is little risk of overheating. 

Goggles

Find a pair that you are comfortable with and allow you to see very well. Make sure they are tight, but not too tight to cause pain around your eyes. Spit is the best anti-fogging agent around, and it’s free! Always make sure to inspect your goggles for wear and tear the day before your race. 

I always go to race with two pairs of goggles. A tinted pair for sunny days and a clear pair for dark days. If you have a pony-tail tie it at the nape of your neck (so the goggle strap is above the ponytail bulge). If you are a bloke: cut your hair.

10 of the best pool goggles

Open-water swim goggles: 10 of the best reviewed and rated

Open-water goggles: how to choose the right lenses

Chrissie Wellington in swim training

Swim cap

I use a silicon cap in training which, although more expensive, is much more durable than latex. You will get given a specific, colour-coded cap in a race.

If possible, try the race cap on the day before, carefully stretch it a little if it feels too tight. You might consider having your goggle strap under your cap, which can help prevent your goggles getting removed/dislodged in the swim.

Chrissie Wellington in swim training

Silicon ear plugs

These are very useful if you suffer ear infections and/or if the water is cold.

Get rid of ‘swimmer’s ear’

Vaseline and rubber glove and/or body glide

Chafing is a triathlete’s worst enemy. It is often worse in the sea, where salt creates extra friction. Vaseline is an easy solution to chafing, though petroleum jelly can cause wetsuit neoprene to deteriorate over time.

If you do use Vaseline then applying it with a rubber glove or bag over your hand is a good idea (oily hands affect the catch in the swim).

Many athletes also use cooking spray (such as Pam) for lubrication. There are also some great wetsuit-friendly lubricants on the market, many of which come in a convenient roll-on stick.

Throwaway shoes

Buy some cheap, throwaway slippers/flip flops to wear down to the swim start. This helps avoid cold feet (literally) and prevents any cuts on sharp objects.

Chrissie Wellington’s 10 top tri kit essentials

7 triathlon kit upgrades for beginners that don’t cost a fortune

Prepare to swim in open water for the first time

Triathlon gear buying guides

Chrissie Wellington on… Budget triathlon gear

For lots more kit advice head to our Triathlon gear section

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Monica Wilson – Wunda Chair Workout (65 mins) – Level 2/3

What You’ll Need:

Wunda Chair, Knee Pad, Towel

Work on your upper body connection in this strong Wunda Chair workout with Monica Wilson. She teaches her long-time client, Maria, focusing on keeping her shape in each exercise. She pays special attention to the transitions to maintain the connection to the back side of the body between movements.

Mar 08, 2017

(Log In to track)

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Alvarez, Woroniecki Set to Make Duet Debut at French Open

Anita Alvarez, left, and Victoria Woroniecki. Photo Courtesy: USA Synchro

Commentary by Dax Lowry, Swimming World Contributor

Anita Alvarez (Kenmore, N.Y.) and Victoria Woroniecki (Palm Coast, Fla.), members of the U.S. Synchronized Swimming National Squad, are set to make their debut as a duet Friday at the Make Up For Ever French Open in Paris. The event runs through Sunday.

Alvarez, a 2016 Olympian, and Woroniecki were named to the national squad late last year, and USA Synchro CEO Myriam Glez says the new duet’s synchronization and endurance are already in fine form.

“They’re looking good, especially in the technical routine. The goal has been to get this new pair ready for their first competition,” Glez said. “Obviously it is the beginning of the season so they need more work, but they are doing a great job. They will have more time to take these routines to the next level before the China Open and Japan Open.”

Alvarez made her Olympic debut last August in Rio, finishing ninth in duet with two-time Olympian Mariya Koroleva. Woroniecki has international experience during her stints on U.S. junior national teams, having competed in Canada, China and Russia. This will be her first as a member of the senior national squad.

“These two athletes have different strengths and weaknesses. Victoria is taller than Anita, and she makes the pair look bigger in the water,” Glez said. “She also has great propulsion and power, and therefore it helps with the stamina throughout the routine and makes them look powerful.”

The French Open is the first leg of the inaugural FINA World Series of Synchronized Swimming. The World Series will integrate existing smaller synchro events from all over the world, with each leg staged in conjunction with existing national opens and competitions. The 2017 circuit will include a total of seven events.

The Synchro America Open, the only international synchronized swimming event held in the U.S., will be included in the World Series. The Synchro America Open will be held June 21-24 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, N.Y.

“The FINA World Series is inspired by other sports like diving and swimming,” Glez said. “This is great for synchro because it encourages more countries to participate in more competitions throughout the season. The goal is also to formalize the synchronized swimming competition schedule and to better market our sport.”

2017 Calendar for FINA World Series

Make Up For Ever French Open (Paris), March 10-12

China Open (Taiyuan, China), April 22-24

Japan Open (Tokyo), April 28-30

Canada Open (Toronto), May 2-7

Spain Open (TBD), May 26-28

Synchro America Open (East Meadow, N.Y.), June 22-24

Suv Parisi (Tashkent, Uzbekistan), August (dates TBD)

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Wednesday – Food, Fun and Fitness

For those of you who have not seen it yet – Crossfit Factory Square is proudly celebrating another year and what better way to do it than with all of the Factory Square community! Join us for some Food, Fun and Fitness. This year’s celebration with include a 2 or 4 person partner WOD (your choice) followed by a potluck brunch around 11 AM. We hope that everyone can join us for both but please feel free to come to one or the other.

Now that you know about the event, how about some of those important details . . . .

WHEN: Saturday, April 1st – Doors open at 9:30 AM, WOD at 10:00 AM

WHO: All are invited!

WOD: 4 Person Team WOD

40 Handstand Push Ups (mod:pike)

60 Burpees

800 meter Run

100 Kettlebell Swings 53/35

120 Hand Release Push Ups

140 Abmat Situps

160 Wall Balls 20/14

180 Hurdle Hops

All movements must be completed in order and only one athlete working at a time. Team must also complete a 2 mile run (sub will be a 4k row). This can be broken up however you wish with one working at a time and can be done at any time while other team members are working on the reps of each exercise. The run can also be done as a buy in or cash out (if done as a two person team the reps/mileage will be cut in half).

Hope to see everyone there!

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Injured Serena Williams out of Indian Wells

Serena Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam at this year's Australian Open - an Open era record

World number one Serena Williams says a knee injury has forced her to pull out of this week’s BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

Williams, 35, said she will also miss the Miami Open later this month.

The American, who won an Open era record 23rd Grand Slam at the Australian Open earlier this year, said: “I have not been able to train due to my knees.”

She added she would return “as soon as I can”.

Indian Wells organisers said a revised draw would be issued later.

Williams only returned to the Californian tournament in 2015 after a 14-year boycott following claims she had suffered racist abuse at the venue.

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NSPF Recommends Bathroom Breaks Every 30-40 Minutes During Practice

Photo Courtesy: National Swimming Pool Foundation

The National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF® ), has recommendations to improve water and air quality by reducing urine in pools. A few small changes by coaches, parents, and facility managers can prevent pee in the pool. After all, the swimmers, parents, and coaches have the most to gain since they are the ones who are exposed to the water and breathing the air.

Just because one report suggests we should fear urine in the pool, people of all ages should continue to enjoy the wonder of water. Immersion and water activity can reduce lower-back pain, blood pressure, and arthritis symptoms, and improve mental and physical health. Recent science has shown that even the sight of water can improve one’s mood.

First, everyone from swim coaches to parents should encourage showers and bathroom breaks before entering the water. It is important to recognize that being submerged in water stimulates the body to create more urine. There are other simple solutions that coaches, parents, and facility managers can incorporate that reduce pee in the pool.

Swim Coaches should require a bathroom break 30-60 minutes into the practice. For example, it takes about 40 minutes in the water for a person to feel the need to urinate. A short break that borders this time frame will reduce peeing in the pool.

Parents who frequent water parks, public pools, or backyard pools should schedule an “out of pool” time for a snack, sunscreen, and a bathroom break every 30-60 minutes.

Facility Managers should consider two ways to prevent pee in the pool. First, schedule short breaks to encourage people to exit the water. For example, a 10-minute “adult only” swim time or an out-of-pool activity every hour encourages people to exit the pool and use the bathroom. Second, post signage that suggests using the bathroom and showering before getting into the pool.

Air quality can also be improved upon for indoor facilities when we keep urine out of the water. What’s more, everyone from children to masters can gain the benefits of one of the most fun and healthy activities. When coaches, parents, and facility managers make small changes, the water we enjoy and air we breathe is healthier, safer, and better.

About the National Swimming Pool Foundation®

We believe everything we do helps people live healthier lives. Whether it’s encouraging more aquatic activity, making pools safer, or keeping pools open, we believe we can make a difference. NSPF® offers products and programs that are technically sound, convenient, and beautifully designed. In 2012, we launched the Step Into Swim™ Campaign, a 10-year initiative to create one million more swimmers. In 2016, to further their mission, NSPF combined forces with Genesis, an educational leader for builders of residential pools and spas. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit located in Colorado Springs, CO., proceeds go to fund research and to help create swimmers. The National Swimming Pool Foundation has been keeping pools safe and open since 1965. Visit nspf.org, genesis3.com, or call 719-540-9119 to learn more.

Press release courtesy of National Swimming Pool Foundation 

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Thurman outpoints Garcia in welterweight unification clash

05/03/2017 07:44

WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) outpointed WBC titleholder Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) by a 12 round split decision in a unification bout on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Thurman won the clash of two undefeated, prime, 28-year-old champions by scores of 116-112 and 115-113, while the third judge had it 115-113 for Garcia.

Both fighters had their moments but Thurman got the better of fellow American Garcia in most of the rounds, connecting with jabs and right hands.

Thurman rocked Garcia with a right-left combination in the opener and continued to land hard shots in the following rounds.

Garcia jabbed and countered well as the fight progressed but Thurman remained the busier.

In the later rounds, Garcia become the aggressor and had some success landing to head and body, but he could not land the knockout blow he needed as Thurman circled the ring and avoided many of Garcia’s punches.

“The judges are judges,” said Thurman. “I thought I out-boxed him. I thought it was a clear victory, but Danny came to fight.

“My defence was effective. He wasn’t landing.”

With the win, Thurman adds the WBC 147lb belt to his WBA title.

“I came up short tonight,” said Garcia. “I thought I was the aggressor. I thought I pushed the pace. But it didn’t go my way.

“I thought I won and I was pushing the fight. But it is what it is. He was trying to counter. I had to wait to find my spots.”

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Australian Water Polo Player Bridgette Gusterson Named 14th ISHOF Class of 2017 Inductee

Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) announced that Bridgette Gusterson will join 17 others as honorees who will enter the International Swimming Hall of Fame as the Class of 2017. Bridgette Gusterson Ireland (AUS) is the fourteenth member of the class to be named for ceremonies to be held August 25-27, in Fort Lauderdale.

Previously, Open water swimmer Maarten Van Der Weijden, swimmers Wu Chuanyu (CHN) and Takeshi “Halo” Hirose (USA) Georges Vallerey, Jr. (FRA), Alain Bernard (FRA), diver Zhang Xiuwei (CHN) and Laura Wilkinson (USA), long distance swimmer Walter Poenisch (USA), water polo players Osvaldo Codaro (ARG) and András Bodnár (HUN), coach Dick Jochums (USA) and photojournalist Heinz Kluetmeier have been announced.

Bridgette Gusterson was born on February 7, 1973, in Perth, Western Australia. As a ten-year-old she had a clear and precise goal. She wanted to be an Olympian. The only problem was, she didn’t have a sport. Her first choice was gymnastics but she knew she was going to be too tall.

The Bicton pool just two minutes from her home and her older sister, Danielle, played water polo, so the choice became clear. Even though women’s water polo was not yet on the Olympic program, there were hopes it would be added to the 1984 Olympic program for Los Angeles. And so began a career that that set the standard for female water polo players around the world.

As she grew, Gusterson’s tall, athletic frame (180 cm / 5’11”) lent itself to the demanding center forward position. But her physical attributes were matched by her fierce determination to master all technical aspects of the game. As a feared centre forward, accurate passer and outside shooter, Bridgette was regarded as the best all-rounder in the world in the latter parts of the 1990s. She made her first Australian National Team appearance in 1992 and subsequently represented her country in 212 international matches, scoring more than 400 goals. In 1995, she scored a hat-trick in leading Australia to the World Cup gold medal over the Netherlands and she was the first Australian woman to receive a professional contract to play in Europe, representing the Italian club, Orrizonte from 1995 to 1997.

It had always been her dream, from when she first started playing, that one day women’s water polo would be in the Olympics. As she grew older the dream became more defined. She would be captain of the team that won the gold medal in the first women’s Olympic tournament.

Amazingly her dream came true. It started when she assumed captaincy of the Australian team in 1998. A short time later the Australian Olympic Organizing Committee announced women’s water polo was being added, for the first time, to the Olympic program in 2000. In the semi-final game against Russia, she scored the winning goal with a clever flick shot over the goal keeper’s shoulder. The final against the United States was even more dramatic she made the assist that led to the winning goal to break a tie and clinch the gold medal with just 1.3 seconds on the clock. When the final tallies were made, she had led her team in scoring and to add icing to the top of dream cake, she shared the Olympic triumph with her sister and teammate, Danielle.

Gusterson retired after the 2000 Olympic Games, but continues to be involved in the sport as a coach. She resides in Perth with her husband Gary Ireland (former World Champion swimmer/ surf lifesaver) and their son Kalani.

About ISHOF

The International Hall of Fame, established in 1965, is a not-for- profit educational organization located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its mission is to promote the benefits and importance of swimming as a key to fitness, good health, quality of life, and the water safety of all adults and children.  It accomplishes this through operation of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a dynamic shrine dedicated to preserving the history of swimming, the memory and recognition of the famous swimmers, divers, water polo players, synchronized swimmers and people involved in life saving activities and education whose lives and accomplishments inspire, educate, and provide role models for people around the world. For more information contact Bruce Wigo at 954-462-6536 ext. 201, or by email bwigo@ishof.org.

Press release courtesy of ISHOF. 

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Are marginal gains for everybody?

Is the concept of ‘marginal gains’ still relevant to amateur cyclists, or has it been unmasked as a fancy term for pointless perfectionism and pro-team secretiveness?

Is your chainring the right shape? Have you touched one too many grubby door handles? Did you lose a critical 40 minutes of sleep last night?

The questions fitness-seeking cyclists ask themselves have changed a lot in the last decade or so.

Whereas riders used to be hung up simply on having the lightest bike, the heartiest serving of pasta and the most training miles in the bank, an altogether more nuanced, complex approach has come to the fore.

>>> Seven best ways to make your bike lighter for free

Nowadays cyclists obsess about marginal gains, striving to finesse every conceivable aspect of body and bike, no matter how small the potential benefit — but is such fine-tuning really worthwhile, or is it just hankering after an illusory ideal?

Of course, tiny changes to position, sleekness and geometry can significantly improve aerodynamics; marginal gains of this type will always be critical in time trialling.

In certain other areas of cycling, too, the rise of the marginal gain has worked wonders, greatly reducing overeating and overtraining while unearthing numerous benefits that no one had previously thought to look for.

On the other hand, it’s led cyclists — and not just the pros — down any number of hilarious blind alleys; pretty much every stripe of road cyclist has spent years inflating their tyres to steel-hard pressures in pursuit of a rolling resistance reduction so fractional it’s practically undetectable.


Watch now: How to set the perfect tyre pressure


Likewise, many have necked food supplements up to and beyond the limits of their digestive systems, with little or no benefit.

Turn back the clock a bit further and you’ll remember cyclists ‘drilling out’ their frames and components in pursuit of a saved gram here or there, a practice that left bikes at best ugly and, at worst, dangerous.

The only real difference between the amateur and professional errors is that most amateurs don’t hang the name ‘marginal gains’ on their experiments and later embark on corporate speaking tours.

There have been many attempted marginal gains, from the left-hand-drive track bikes tried out by Team USA at the Rio Olympics (taking advantage of the lower airflow on the inside of the bike) to the bike with high-pressure tyres that Alberto Contador swapped onto before climbing Mount Etna in the 2011 Giro.

Left hand cranks couldn’t help the USA to gold in the women’s team pursuit (Photo: Watson)

All cyclists are looking for an edge, but “the aggregation of marginal gains” is a buzz-phrase most commonly associated with British Cycling, Team Sky and Sir Dave Brailsford.

Because of Sky’s success, marginal gains have been imbued with a sort of mysticism. But according to sportswriter Matthew Syed, it is just a new term for an age-old practice.

“Marginal gains is just the idea of applying the scientific method to continual improvement,” he says.

>>> Dave Brailsford: ‘I’m uncompromising, and some people can’t cope with that’

Syed, who won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in table tennis, spent months researching marginal gains for his latest book Black Box Thinking.

He believes the success of marginal gains culture has its roots in a change in coaching attitudes.

“There was a lot of conventional wisdom when I was an athlete, and a lot of coaches who thought that, because they’d produced good players, their methods were as good as they could get.

If your ego is bound up with the status quo, then change is a threat.

“My sense from meeting Sir Dave Brailsford is that he’s bound up in ‘What is it that we currently don’t know?’ not ‘What do we already know and how can we proclaim our knowledge?’ The psychology of that is at the heart of the scientific revolution.

“The psychology turns out to be very important, and that’s what marginal gains expresses.”

>>> The hidden motor in your head: How mind training can make you ride faster

It’s a perfectly tidy description, and one that can be very useful.

After all, British Cycling’s chains are cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner and lubed with a nanotube formula, a marginal gain apparently worth six watts.

But every cyclist has felt the benefit of a clean drivetrain, even if all they’ve done is shake their chain in a bottle of white spirit and flossed their sprockets with old newspaper.

The distinction between general good practice and marginal gain is as much about mindset as outcome.

In truth, many attempted marginal gains don’t actually lead to performance improvement — the ice bath that was so trendy a few years ago, for example, might actually be counter-productive.

The important thing with a marginal gains approach is to explore these possibilities.

“Whenever you attempt a marginal gain that doesn’t work, you improve your understanding of the problem,” says Syed.

“If a cycling race is made up of parameters — the aerodynamics of the bike, the efficiency of the training and so on, and they can all be broken down into smaller elements — when you find something that doesn’t work, that’s very useful information.

“Finding marginal gains that don’t work makes it easier to focus on the ones that do work.

The 2011 road world championship set the standard for marginal gains when Mark Cavendish won wearing an aerodynamic helmet cover and skinsuit.

“The crucial thing is a mindset that’s willing to say ‘Whatever we’re doing, however good, we can get better’… Instead of saying ‘Are you saying I don’t know what I’m doing?’ you say: ‘That’s interesting,’ and start looking for improvement.”

The word psychology comes up almost as often as science when discussing marginal gains, and for good reason.

According to sports psychologist Andrew Barton, a marginal gains culture can have a huge influence on performance even if the changes being experimented with don’t turn out to have any measurable physical outcome:

“From a psychological perspective, each member of a team buys into the vision of marginal gains, and therefore puts immense faith in the people around them.

“Belief plays a huge role in an athlete’s ability to perform to the highest level: their motivation to train, their confidence, their energy levels and their willingness to constantly push themselves.

>>> ‘Cyclists, be cautious with caffeine’

“Although some of the marginal gains may be dubious in terms of real effect, the placebo effect is a very real one.”

Leaving aside the placebo effect for now, it’s important to stress that while a marginal gains culture might value change as a means to progress, that’s not to say that changes shouldn’t be managed.

Change for change’s sake, or simply shaking things up in pursuit of a ‘dead cat bounce’ can introduce as much uncertainty as confidence.

“Learning the various factors that contribute to the marginal gains has to be drip-fed in the same way as learning a new skill.

“If you are given too many new things to take on board too quickly, it creates an overload, and riders become stressed or unfocused, and take their attention away from the more crucial areas of their performance.”

An extra edge

Pursuing fractional advantages makes sense in the professional sphere, where athletes are already trained to the limits of their potential, and need to find an extra competitive edge, but are marginal gains applicable to amateur cyclists?

The club-mate’s knowing smirk at your post-Christmas belly when you’ve just unwrapped your first carbon frame is almost a rite of passage in cycling, an unspoken acknowledgement that those of us who don’t get to ride for a living invariably have more room to make maximal, not merely marginal, gains.

>>> Bike of the year 2017: Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0

But many coaches think a marginal gains approach is perfectly valid in amateur cyclists too.

Marginal gains can make any cyclist faster

Amid the headlines about teams being taught how to wash their hands by surgeons to minimise illness, or sleeping in motorhomes to avoid the hubbub of hotels, it’s easy to forget that Sky’s marginal gains approach has always involved a lot of data-wrangling.

>>> How to combat a cold

Extrapolating a rider’s future performances by crunching numbers, or factoring in historical wind data to the analysis of a time trial course is a tough sell to a daily newspaper or a large business looking for a motivational speaker, so it often gets forgotten — but the data analysis side of marginal gains is accessible to any cyclist with a power meter.

Rob Kitching, a part-time British Cycling accredited coach and software engineer, runs Cyclingpowerlab.com, a website that provides data analysis for cyclists tailored to specific events, and he believes that a marginal gains approach can be as beneficial for amateurs as it is for professionals.

“There are two reasons to apply marginal gains:

1) because your returns from training time are diminishing, which explains why a lot of highly trained pro athletes who are close to their genetic potential would start to give the idea time and attention.

2) because certain things can be seen as ‘low hanging fruit’ or ‘quick wins’.

“The latter are definitely of interest to lesser-trained amateur athletes who, instead of bumping up against genetic potential, may be bumping up against the maximum time they can dedicate to training and who therefore look for ways to think or buy themselves faster.”

There’s no shame in having a demanding job, a busy family life or even other interests that compete with cycling, and finding ways to improve your performances on the bike without sacrificing your bike/life balance is fundamental part of being cyclist.

Who hasn’t attempted to buy a bit of speed with better wheels, or up their game with a few gallons of beetroot juice? According to Kitching, data analysis is the first step in figuring out which marginal gains could be made effectively.

Gains in the most unlikely of places

“The initial value of sports analytics or performance modelling is in measuring what you already do, then revealing what you could do better.

That lets you prioritise where any time or money put into marginal gains could best be invested… We can run a computer model to simulate performance [under different variables].

“As a concrete example, the data might reveal that a rider is significantly less aero than competitors at the same height and weight — so the rider would work on aerodynamic optimisation as a priority, starting with the quick wins and working through the smaller stuff, until the limit of time or money is reached.”

Balancing financial and time cost is where a marginal gains approach can be even more important for amateurs than professionals.

Whereas almost all top-flight professional teams have the budget to explore a wide variety of potential gains, amateurs have to be more focused, and there are times when it’s worth pitting some of the more technical-sounding marginal gains against the more gimmicky ones.

“Most riders lose at least two per cent of their power in the drivetrain, and there is good evidence to suggest that drivetrain optimisation is worth a few watts,” says Kitching.

>>> How to clean your road bike in seven minutes (video)

“But optimised chains don’t last long, so they’re a really expensive choice, whereas hand sanitisers are just a low-cost extension of the decades-old advice to wash you hands a lot [to prevent illness].

“If something is evidence-based, justified by time and money, and reasonably likely to help the athlete, then it’s on the right side of the line.”

Even coaches who aren’t entirely convinced by marginal gains tend to quibble less over their effectiveness and more over the term ‘marginal’.

According to Paul Hough, lead physiologist at St Mary’s University, there are physiological thresholds that need to be reached before it’s worth looking elsewhere for gains:

“If the athlete hasn’t got a long, consistent training history, then minor tweaks probably won’t make much difference. A [male] cyclist with a VO2 max of 50 or body fat higher than about 13 per cent won’t notice a significant improvement by, say, changing to ceramic bearings.

“Speaking as an insomniac, though, improving sleep benefits all athletes. [Two or more] consecutive nights of poor sleep have been shown to reduce cognitive and physical performance.”

Aside from the reduction of fatigue and improvement in reaction and recovery times, good sleeping habits reduce stress hormones and increase the availability of human growth hormone, a potent performance-enhancer.

Perhaps Sky’s motorhome and mattresses aren’t just a sideshow for the press. Nor, according to Hough, is the hand-washing.

Team Sky’s motorhome ended up for sale on eBay

“Illness is a major concern for athletes as even minor infections can impair performance. In general you’re OK to exercise with a mild cold [but you should avoid] exercising in group environments to prevent spreading the virus to others.”

It’s interesting that though some of the more high-tech pursuits of marginal gains provoke debate among our experts, many of the simpler ones — good sleep, good hygiene, clean drivetrains — are unanimously regarded as worthwhile.

It may turn out that the core of a marginal gains philosophy is, as CW’s own Dr Hutch once termed it, “the ruthless pursuit of the fairly obvious”.

>>> Dr Hutch: Remember marginal gains? They used to be big

Hanging a media-friendly name on it and treating it as something new is what invites cynicism and scrutiny, but the practice of leaving nothing to chance and taking nothing for granted isn’t new or suspicious, it has always been a fundamental part of sport.

In fact, the only thing up for debate is the point at which the effort exceeds the returns, and that’s something that will depend entirely on the time, money and headspace you have available.


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