Thursday, 29 March 2018

Gym Session Triathlon

Here are my top 5 gym exercises I do every week to make sure I stay injury free and have a well maintained working body ready for hard session.

Barbell Hip Thrust

Great exercise for your gluts and Hamstrings. Which are really important in triathlon for running and also running off the bike when tired.  When running your Gluts work to stabiles your hips and legs when under impact.  Making sure your Gluts are strong and conditioned means your gluts will activate when running helping you run faster and more economical so you are using less energy.

Instructions: Begin seated on the ground with a bench directly behind you. Have a loaded barbell over your legs. Roll the bar so that it is directly above your hips, and lean back against the bench so that your shoulder blades are near the top of it. Begin the movement by driving through your feet ( heels to activate glutes), extending your hips vertically through the bar. Your weight should be supported by your shoulder blades and your feet. Extend as far as possible, and then reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
Do 3 sets of 8-13 reps. Increase weight slowly.

Lat pull downs:

The lat pulldown is a basic upper body strength exercise that targets the upper back. The exercise also improves stability in the lower back and core.  This exercises helps with your swimming making sure you engage your lats when swimming. Although other arm and back muscles are used in frountcrawl, the latissimus dorsi is the main muscle working for your momentum through the water. This exercise can help you become faster and stronger in the water.

Instructions: Sit at a lat pulldown station and grab the bar with an overhand wide grip that's just beyond shoulder width. Pull Shoulders down , bar to chest then back up slowly.
Do 3 sets 8-13 reps. Increase reps or weight slowly

Hamstring curls:

Hamstrings are important for triathletes when running and cycling. For cycling when Knee flexion occurs a lot when riding every time your feet lift up from the bottom of a revolution, and a degree of hip extension is also involved, especially when you’re riding out of the saddle and climbing hills. When running it will make you more efficient at bring your heel towards your bum  during the recovery cycle. 

 Instructions: Begin with a light weight and stand facing the machine. Position one leg for the lift by hooking it under the weight pad. Make sure the pads are in a comfortable position around your ankle in order to involve the heel in the movement. Don’t position the pads too high on the calf. Grab hold of the support handles. Flex your knee and lift the pad upwards as far as you can towards your bum (Gluts) as you exhale. Lower the leg to the starting position. And repeat
3 sets: 10-12 reps start with a easy weight increase slowly

Calf raises
Calf raises should be part of every Triathletes gym program. You benefit from calf as it is strengthening your lower leg muscles to improve your running speed and reduce your risk for injuries.

Instructions: Place the ball of the foot on a sturdy and stable board of the ground while your heels extend off. This will be your starting position. With the toes pointing either straight to hit all parts equally raise the heels off the floor as you exhale by contracting the calves. Hold the top contraction for a second. As you inhale, go back to the starting position by slowly lowering the heels.
3 sets of 15 to 30reps depending on weight, higher the weight lower reps.

Sit ups

Core may arguably be the most important muscle group to strengthen in triathlon. Swimming requires a stable trunk and streamlined position for the most efficient technique. Triathlete with a weak core are susceptible to a poor pelvic position on the saddle of your bike, which results in side-to-side movement. This is bad form and is usually due, in part, to poor core strength. When Running your foot hits the ground, a shockwave of force is sent up through your trunk and torso. For the triathlete, especially at this stage in the race, having a conditioned core will hold your torso and trunk upright and aligned for the best form. When our core is weak or tired, we tend to wobble in our hips and upper body and this deflects energy that should be geared back towards our legs.

Instructions: Lie down on your back. Bend your legs and place feet firmly on the ground to stabilize your lower body. Cross your hands to opposite shoulders or place them behind your ears, without pulling on your neck. Curl your upper body all the way up toward your knees. All done slowly.

3 sets: 20-30 reps

Hope this helps

Megan McDonald

Monday, 12 February 2018

Turbo Sessions for the Winter

Through the winter it can be difficult to do every bike session out on the roads, so I have decided to share some of the sessions I do at Loughborough with the Triathlon Performance Squad so that you can improve your critical power and muscular endurance throughout the winter months.


LT1: LT1 is the point where you start producing lactate, also known as aerobic threshold. So most people will be around 150HR. Mine is high at 168. It is good to train under this threshold as lactate causes fatigue.

LT2: The second threshold is when you are producing significant lactate and is called your anaerobic threshold. At this intensity you can last for around 45 minutes.

Session 1
75 Minute Session Critical Power:

The aim of this turbo session is for you to work at your max and produce as much sustainable power for the chosen time of the repetition. At the end of the last rep you should be going as hard as possible and reaching a high heart rate. Make sure you don’t start the first 6 minutes too hard, think of it as a 25 minute time trial effort. This session is great to help improve you maximum power output.

Warm Up: 30 Minutes
  • 10min spin
  • 5min LT1
  • 1min recovery
  • 3min LT2
  •  2x8 second sprint 1min
  • 3min LT2
  • 2x8 second sprint 1min
  • 4min spin
Main Session: 28 Minute Session

  • 6min hard
  • 3min easy
  • 5min hard
  • 2.5min easy
  • 4min hard
  • 2min easy
  • 3min hard
  • 1.30min easy
  • 2min hard
  • 1min easy
  • 1min hard
Cool down: 15-20min easy spin
Session 2

This is my second critical power session to improve your maximum output power.

Warm Up
  • 10min spin
  • 5min aerobic – perhaps this need an explanation?
  • 2min easy
  • (3min at 40km race pace - 10s sprint-50s recovery x2) x2
  •  2min easy
Main Session
  • 3x 1,2,3 minutes as:
  • 1min hard - 45s recovery
  • 2min hard - 1min recovery
  • 3min hard - 4min recovery
Cool Down: 15-20min spin
Session 3
90min Session Endurance

This session is to help your muscular endurance, making sure over the winter you are getting your legs used toa range of paces. Please use the key above if you don’t use or know what LT1 and LT2 are.

Warm Up
  • 10-20min spin
  • (4x30sec single leg into 2min race gear 2min spin) x3
  • 4x30sec build - 30sec easy
Main Session
  • 4x10min: After each set 2min HARD (VO2) into 2min spin
  • 1.5min just UNDER LT1/3min just OVER
  • 2.4min just UNDER LT2/4min just OVER LT2
  • 3.3min just UNDER LT1/5min just OVER LT1
  • 4min as per set 2
Cool Down:10-20min spin

Have a go at these sessions and let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy them.


Megan McDonald

Friday, 1 December 2017

Christmas Triathlon Recipes

Thought I’d share some delicious festive recipes for your winter training that I’ve been using so far this winter:

Energy SnowBalls

When going out for those long winter rides, gels and energy bars are not always that appealing. Instead, why not try making your own energy balls that can be specific to you? Making these are cheap, quick and easy. These are my go-to for those long 4hour rides. I even add in protein recovery powder just to start that recovery more quickly.For a great Christmassy/wintery look, try rolling the balls in desiccated coconut!


This batch makes 12 balls and each serving is 3 balls.
1 cup of dates
¾ cup porridge oats
2 heaped tbsp of peanut butter
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp mixed seeds


Soak the date in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 min (or longer) and then drain. Blend all the ingredients to form a paste and roll into balls. If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of water. Leave plain or try coating in desiccated coconut for a more festive look!

Cranberry and Coconut Energy Bars: 

These energy bars are so delicious and packed with plenty of goodness. They're perfect for having on the go, before or after your ride or during a competitionto keep your carbohydrate stores topped up.


100g hazelnuts
100g almonds
100g dried cranberries
180g pitted placed in dates (chopped up, then 200ml boiling water for 5 minutes)
200g oats
1 tablespoon coconut oil
50g desiccated coconut
25g mixed seeds
1 ripe banana
The drained water from the dates


Place the dates into 200ml boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes (remember; do not throw the water away afterwards). Into a food processor, add the hazelnuts, almonds, oats, mixed seeds and dried cranberries, and blitz until a rough consistency is formed (you still want to be able to see roughly chopped chunks of nuts). Transfer the dates from the boiling water to the food processor, and add the coconut oil and the desiccated coconut. Blitz again until a consistent mixture has formed .On a hob, gently heat the remaining water from the dates with 1 banana until a date and banana puree has formed. Add the date and banana puree into the food processor.  Line a baking dish with grease proof paper before transferring the content of the food processor. Let cool before transferring to the fridge. Once cool, cut into 16 energy bars.
Finally a pudding for breakfast, making sure our fuelled correctly for them cold winter rides:

Carrot Cake Porridge: 

This carrot cake porridge is great for topping up the tank before a morning ride or perfect for helping replenish carbohydrate stores post-ride.  

50 grams oats
100 ml water
100 ml semi-skimmed milk (or alternative milk)
Pinch of salt
1 carrot (grated)
1 tbsp sultanas
1 medjool date
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
4 pecans
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp maple syrup

In a saucepan, add your oats, milk, water, salt, grated carrot, sultanas, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and maple syrup. Heat gently, stirring continuously. Once warm, serve and top with crushed pecan nuts and pumpkin seeds.

I would like to say a big thanks to Sean Buxton who introduced me to these recipes. Hope you enjoy them and let us know how you get on!!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Avail Advanced Pro 1

As a young female athlete, when choosing a bike I am looking for certain specifications to suit me. I want a bike that will help me on long rides in all different weather conditions and a bike that will keep me upright!

This year I have chosen the Avail Advanced Pro 1 as my training bike, there are a number of factors that swayed me towards this bike, but one in particular is that it comes with Gavia SLT Tubeless tyres! The Avail Advanced Pro 1 has some great components, Advanced-Grade Frame and Forks, Ultegra 22 speed, Shimano BR-RS805 hydraulic disc brakes working perfectly in wet conditions and Giant SLR 1 disc wheels with Gavia Tubeless tyres. The list doesn’t stop there! The Shimano BR-RS805 hydraulic brakes system is very responsive. Their reliability makes for a safer ride and I know they will always work no matter what the weather. Also maintaining the brakes is far easier as there are no cables that could stiffen up, making it always easy to brake.

I’ve had my Avail Advanced for a few months. Due to the weather conditions this year and debris on the roads, I encountered my first puncture on my new bike. Whilst riding I noticed that the sealant was slowly releasing and little specs were spraying out. As I am new to using Gavia tyres I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I carried on cycling for a while thinking it would stop.But the tyre carried on spraying sealant out, so it was time to stop and investigate. I noticed a piece of glass, which when I removed it and the air started releasing out of the tyre, I began cycling again so the sealant would move towards the hole. I had 10 miles left of the ride and the tyre didn’t deflate and the spray from the sealant stopped. Smoothly riding on, my thoughts were, ‘how brilliant are these tyre especially for women and lone riders!’ - No more long stops getting cold and worrying about being safe on the side of the road. I will definitely recommend this type of tyres system to other ladies. These tyres can be put on all road bikes and if for some reason the sealant doesn’t work, you can always put a tube in.

Check out this video from Japan showing you how the tyres react with a puncture:

Overall, anyone looking for a good set of tyres that don’t puncture easy - these are for you. But also the Avail Advanced Pro is the most comfortable bike I have ridden. Check out your local Giant brand store to book a test demo on this amazing bike.

FGP Dunkque 2017

This year I decided to race in the French Grand Prix series. It’s a team event and includes a strong field of 80 athletes from juniors to world class triathletes. There are five athletes in a team with four races throughout the summer. Dunkque was the first race which was made up of a very strong field, including a few Olympians. This year I am racing with the team Tri Saint Amand Dun 18.

The start line position was chosen by us as a team, but as the newbie I took advice from the other members on where we should go. So that we had some clear water to swim through the team decided we would start on the left. However, at the first buoy we were slightly down and arrived to a brutal turn with lots of dunking and pushing, this meant vital seconds were lost. I came out of the water half way down the field. 

Transition went smoothly, as I jumped on my bike I could see the back of the front pack. I worked very hard, but I couldn't catch the front pack and was left in a group of 15 athletes to work with on the bike. During the bike section of a triathlon some athletes will work and take their turn at the front, whereas others will sit in and draft. This group seemed contented in letting myself and a few others do all the work. The leading group managed to secure a 2 minute advantage on the bike. 

My run technique was better than previously, this is something I’ve been working on, but the second half of my run was slightly slower. Despite this I was satisfied with my run performance overall after such a tough bike section. 

After any type of race there is always something you need to work on, so I’m back to Loughborough for a good couple of training weeks.

 I would like to thank Liv UK for their continued support. Huub Design for the insanely fast wetsuit. Finally, my new sponsor Citizen Machinery UK.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Milestone that is 2017

This year will for me be a milestone in my life, I have begun the year by moving from home to Loughborough full-time. In 2016 I made the decision to train with the Loughborough University Triathlon Squad, however I was still living at home (45 miles away from Loughborough). Back then there were a number of factors holding me back from moving; finances, work, maturity and general worries. I have now made the big move and I share a house with other triathletes and train with the squad most sessions. I really do not miss spending the majority of my days driving back and forth from Leamington Spa, however I do miss my family (my dog Oakley A LOT!) and home comforts of my food and ironing being done for me.

Although I am not studying at university, I am still focusing on my education. This month I passed my qualification in BTF Triathlon Coach Level 2, to go alongside my swim teaching qualification I achieved last year. I’d like to challenge myself with some more qualifications in the autumn after my competitions have stopped. I’m just trying to work out what will complement the qualifications I already have. I’m already loving using my new set of skills daily and I’m still enjoying teaching young children to swim, it’s so rewarding. Swimming Teaching is my primary source of income at the moment, but hopefully soon I will be able to take on some triathlon sessions (I’m still guilty of having to ask the mum and dad for a little help now and then).

This year I will race in the under 23s and seniors categories, this will include a mix of distances; sprint and Olympic. I hope to race more sprint distances and a few Olympic distances in order to break myself and my body into it gently. France run a Grand Prix league which attracts a number of international athletes who compete in around four race, if chosen. Teams will have a number of athletes that will sign up for their team and it depends on the individual schedules and capabilities to who makes the team, this year I will race for Tri St Amand Dun ’18. I’m really excited to race as I feel I really thrive in a team orientated situation.

My main goal this year is to qualify for European and Worlds but to also remain injury free. I haven’t had much luck these past few years with injuries, so I hope 2017 will see a new robust me. Strength and conditions are going to key and I’m going to have sport massages weekly. My cooking skills are also improving so I hope my nutrition will improve, I still need to focus on calming my sweet tooth.

I am so thankful of my sponsors and this year is more important for me than any others, as I am supporting myself with no financial funding. So I am extremely thankful and appreciate to the kit and equipment as that really helps me out as there is such a large amount of buy in this sport. A big thank you to Liv and the team; Collette, David, Ricki and Simon – Your support and friendship is amazing! My next blog post will be about the great bikes and kit I have been lucky to receive from Liv. Last year I ripped my wetsuit towards to end of the season and Huub were there to rescue me with a new one and a long list of swimming kit and bags. Their support over the past couple of years has been amazing.

A big appreciative thank you to Liv and Huub.

Megan x

Monday, 2 January 2017

Lab Testing: Bike

The Bike Lab test is a test that athletes do to help advance their training and also see if they are improving. Lab tests are split in two parts, a maximal and submaximal peak. This includes measures of VO2max which is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use. This is measured in millilitres per kilogramme of body weight per minute. It also records your maximal heart rate and maximal aerobic power output, which is the highest peak oxygen uptake that an individual can obtain during exercise. Finally, this test will record the lactate thresholds corresponding with heart rates and power outputs. Testing takes place on an SRM bike which was adjusted to be exactly the same set-up as my bike – the Liv Envie ADV Pro 1
MAX TEST (Explanation Loughborough University sources):  
The purpose of this test is to decide the maximum power output you can accomplish and your maximum ability to use the oxygen you breathe in, to provide energy for working muscles (known as your VO2 max). You will start working at around 100 - 150W (this is the forces you put down on the pedals). It is depending on your fitness and body weight determines what level you start at. This workload will go up by 4W every 15s for females, and you will be required to cycle for as long as possible. Once you can no longer maintain your cadence within 10rpm of your chosen cadence the test will be ended. Throughout the test your oxygen uptake will be continuously assessed using an on-line gas analyser. Your maximum power output is calculated as the average power output over the last minute of the test. Your maximal heart rate will also be measured, as well as your blood lactate concentration 1-minute post-test, from ear-prick sample.

The Max test I find the hardest, I’m not a big powerhouse so the numbers I push aren’t the greatest. However to use the test to your advantage you must compare the numbers agents yourself. Last March was the first time I had done the cycle test, I chose the wrong cadence which put me at a downfall. This year I choose 90rpm, my cadence was solid through the whole test. I went 2 minutes longer than last time and hitting more the 30w more. I was not happy my heart rate wasn’t at my max stopping at around 190bpm but my legs couldn’t go on. Showing my Heart was still in the game.

ECONOMY TEST(Explanation Loughborough University sources)
This is a submaximal test to determine your cycling economy, training status and lactate and heart rate response to increasing exercise intensities. This test consists of 6 - 7 four minute stages (continuous) at intensities based on your maximum power output you did on the test before, from 30% of max power at the first stage up to 76 - 84% of max power at the last stage. Oxygen uptake and heart rate are assessed continuously throughout the test, and in the last 15 seconds of each stage, a small ear-prick blood sample will be taken. These blood samples will be analysed to determine blood lactate concentration. I found this test easier, as most athletes do, I made sure my cadence was smooth keeping it at 90rpm. I am yet to find out the results of the test but I am confident my turn point was better than last time. This test will determine my training zones.

I will use the information I gain from this test when training. Riding at a certain HR on steady rides, tempo rides and so on. This will hopefully enable me to maximise my training and improve greatly. I will redo the test around March time next year and hopefully, with consistent training, there will be improvements.

Thanks to LTPC, Nathan and Loughborough University for this great opportunity.