These are definitely one of my most loved recipes. I honestly get asked to make them so often and they go in a flash at any event I take them to! Now you can have them whenever you want - the best thing, is they take about 5 minutes to whip up too!
If you aren't a fan of peanut butter, try it out with alternative nut butters - almond butter works really well too.
I wasn't originally going to post this, but my mum said it may help others working towards their 2020 seasons too, so here you go!
Over the winter months, you tend to wind down the training and start putting plans together for the upcoming new season of racing. Being fairly new to triathlon, my mum asked me for a little bit of guidance to help her start planning her training in the new year - moving towards a more structured approach to hopefully make those all important performance improvements.
I am obviously not a qualified coach, but from my own experience of structured training I gave her the following advice to help her formulate her own plan:
Training plan length and number of sessions
Most focused triathlon training plans for Sprint/Olympic distance triathlons are usually between 9-12 weeks long, so work this back from your 'A' race. Prior to starting your plan, I would focus on keeping base fitness up across the three disciplines, but nothing too intense, otherwise you can be at risk of over-training, getting fatigued/injured and losing motivation.
During your training plan, generally most guidance says you should be doing approx. 2-3 sessions of each discipline, depending on your strengths and weaknesses. If you have limited time, you can combine sessions e.g. run to the pool, do a spin class followed by a run/ bike to the pool etc.
For a sprint distance triathlon I would say you would need, per week, at least one speed session for each discipline, a run endurance session, a bike endurance session, and a strength and conditioning session.
Endurance - long, slower, continuous session (one bike and one run):
Speed – Interval training:
Strength and conditioning - performance enhancing strength training:
Key principles of training
Keep these in mind so you don’t plateau:
Remember, this is very generic and you should tailor your own training plans to suit your own strengths/weaknesses, and if in doubt speak to a qualified coach.
Surprise your friends with the mystery ingredient ‘black beans’ – they are a great non meat source of protein so a great addition to baking if you’re wanting to increase your protein intake – and surprisingly tasty in cookie form!
Per cookie = ~190kcal, 22g carbs, 9g fat, 5g protein
Following on from my last post about the benefits of a training plan and coaches, I am lucky enough to be able to share a guest post written by my coach Ben explaining how to utilise cross training to prevent and make the most of your training.
Variety is the spice of life
The appeal and uptake of triathlon across running clubs over the past decade has been huge, with many seeing it as a next step for a number of reasons. From a pursuit of greater satisfaction from endurance sports to expanding their circle of sporting friends or simply achieving greater variety in training and racing.
From a coach (who’s also gone down the path from runner to multi-sporter) it’s of benefit when a runner approaches me with the mindset of wanting to cross-train, whether it be limited to the months of their marathon plan or with further ambitions to do a multi-discipline event later in the season.
The addition of another sport or two doesn’t necessarily have to be taken as a move to triathlon or take the form of joining a local cycling or swimming club. Fitting a weekly gym spin or swim into the schedule can easily reduce the cost and other perceived barriers.
Being a runner who was initially larger than I would have liked to be, and due to resultant aches and pains could ‘only’ run a maximum of four times a week, the move to triathlon allowed me to make endurance strength gains through being able to train on non-running days (and as my experience developed, doubling up on running days with a morning swim or cycle).
Avoidance of running-based injuries by no longer feeling that I needed to run more to improve was an immediate benefit, but crucially it did also require a new skill that would be common to us all: managing our schedules to navigate another pitfall of training more, mental and physical fatigue.
Conservation of energy
Although I’m enthusiastic to help integrate cross training sessions into athletes’ plans, it’s important from the perspective of both coach and athlete to understand whether this will move the performance needle or in actuality just be a further physical and emotional drain from what can already be a delicate work-life-sport balance.
The addition has to be athlete-driven and its volume and intensity based on a combination of intelligent scheduling, effort management, and how self-aware the athlete is to their resilience, recovery, non-sporting commitments and work-life balance.
For most club athletes, fitting in the weekly runs can already feel like a second job on top of the bill-paying one, alongside family, social life and other interests. The luxury of being a time-rich professional with the opportunity for daytime recovery, more frequent sports massages and physio contact time just isn’t possible for the amateur.
Balancing life and physical ability against the desire to train like your Instagram professional triathlete heroes is therefore key in maximising A-race goals, whilst continuing to be a productive employee, parent, partner and friend. This is combined with understanding the physical and mental pay-back of additional sessions. Aiming for two weekly swims, missing two and under-performing on the third is a waste, is demoralising and (even worse) can affect running performance.
The weeks between training plans (after some well earned rest and recovery!) can be a perfect time to test a new routine alongside your core sport, without the pressure of it continuing for three months. For such an experiment I’ll often get athletes to try a new routine two to four weeks before a plan kicks off (with a bit of rest before any adjustments and the plan begins in earnest). Additional session volume doesn’t have to be huge to understand how it’ll both fit into life and gain feedback on its impact.
To summarise, although a multi-sport week can help reduce the risk of running injuries, it should also be understood whether complementary poorly managed sessions would result in fatigue, maintain fitness levels or optimally, improve performance. To do this it’s vital to use and understand your numbers.
Together with access to more training opportunities, the reduction in cost and the development in technology now gives athletes a plethora of performance metrics to train and race by. Heart rate measurements of effort and recovery, running and cycling cadence and bike power meters can all be utilised to ensure every session (or at least key ones) is completed to a beneficial level of stress.
Using the time before a plan to measure metrics such as maximum heart rate and bike functional threshold power makes setting training efforts for all the sports and the feelings an athlete experiences throughout sessions considerably easier to control and understand. Was a session easier or harder than expected? If so, was there a reason for this (e.g. course and terrain, forthcoming or recent illness and fatigue)?
For a start, find and dust off the heart rate strap that came free with your Garmin, then give it some use over the next few weeks and get in the habit of using it (as well as doing some research on understanding its numbers).
A change is a good rest
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on where and how you could potentially benefit from running a bit less whilst still training a bit more. Changes don’t need to be permanent, but who knows, they could be so good you’ll never look back on your old ways of feeling like running more was the only way to run faster and further.
About the author: Ben Parkinson is an England Athletics Level 2 CiRF-qualified coach at the Spa Strider running club based in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Alongside ‘competing’ in running, cycling, duathlon and triathlons, he’s coached a range of local athletes including me (Hels). You can contact Ben by email and follow him on Strava:
This week I had the pleasure of being the guest speaker at my running clubs (Spa Striders) coaching seminar, hosted by my coach Ben Parkinson.
The seminar was on the principles of designing an effective training plan, looking at training plan phases, weekly structures, key weekly sessions and supporting sessions. It was super interesting to see and hear the thought process behind my own training plan and the importance of looking at the overall picture with A, B and C races.
Having been coached by Ben for almost 2 years, with the focus being on the European Duathlon Championships in Ibiza last October and the World Duathlon Champs in Pontevedra this April, was asked to talk about my views on a structured training plan and the benefits of having a coach. So I thought I would also share here!
Initially, Ben gave me a few questions to consider when I was planning my slot, the first was my thoughts on having a structured training plan...
I would say having a structured training plan is essential regardless of your ability level. A well designed training plan greatly increases the return you get on your training investment, and also reduces the risk of overtraining.
However, many beginners (I have done this too!) base their training plans on pre-written plans from the internet. Don't get me wrong, this is a great start and I am not knocking that at all as it is a good first step to effectively planning your training for a key race. But they are most likely not written for you - to fit in with your strengths and weaknesses, your day job (if only we could all be full time athletes...), and your other responsibilities. And often they are not at the appropriate starting level for an individual - the training volume of the plan may be too high or even too low for their abilities. This is particularly relevant to multi-sport athletes, as an individual will be starting each element at a slightly different level - for instance someone new to swimming, but competent at cycling and running would pick up an off the shelf triathlon training plan and probably would be fine with the bike and run sessions, but may not even be able to complete the swim workouts prescribed!
So this is where a coach can come in handy - to assist with tweaking and flexing a plan to suit you at the beginning and then throughout its duration as life challenges come along! For me, some of the key requirements of my plan for the 2019 season were:
Strangely I came across this quote the Monday before the talk which pretty much sums it all up in my opinion!
There are a few reasons why this resonated with me when I saw it! But simply.. it is so true. A coach acts as someone to bounce ideas off - they offer that second opinion on what to do and what not to do when it comes to training and even race choices, and they can help tweak and flex your training plan when needed. We may all think we know what we should and shouldn't be doing, but how many times have you thought back and realised you may have realised you may have made the wrong decision - I certainly have, thinking I can run through a niggle as I didn't want to miss a session and it made it worse!
So having coach, they act as an objective person who can give you that secondary viewpoint, giving you advice and keeping you on track.
It hasn't at all been plain sailing, and both Ben and I can tell you that we are always learning - every person's body responds differently to training. You can't expect that your first ever training plan will be perfect - it is only by testing and tweaking a plan can you fully understand what works and what doesn't work for yourself.
This last season has been a particularly tough one - at the very beginning of the season I was plagued with shin splints, then I caught the Noro-virus in February and then badly sprained my ankle in the summer.... and this is where a coach can be so beneficial and why I stress the importance of adaptability, flexibility and acceptance of change.
Unfortunately, rubbish things happen but you need to accept these and make the best out of the situation. So whilst I had shin splints for instance, Ben was able to give me alternative bike sessions to do instead, and then later on I was able to adjust my training plan post Noro-virus to slowly and carefully get me back up to the training hours I was doing pre-illness.
Ultimately, most of us are doing this for fun so make sure you are enjoying it! Never become a slave to your plan. Your training plan is just words on a paper, or in a spreadsheet or wherever, but the way your body is responding to the training will determine your success.
If you're constantly tired, injured or lacking mojo, your plan might be too challenging for you, and maybe you should consider scaling it back.
If however, you never feel challenged at all and your performances in races and training have plateaued, then maybe you're not challenging yourself enough - it does have to be a little bit hard!
I am certainly no expert in this, nor am I qualified coach so cannot offer detailed advice on setting your training plans. But if you aren't able to have your own coach then there are plenty of resources out there on the internet and in books that can help you tailor your own training plan to suit your own circumstances - just remember to keep it fun and listen to your body!
This is one of my all time non nut butter sweet treats (I know.. they do actually exist!)
It seems so common for us to compare ourselves to others in pretty much everything that we do. But the thing is, you don't know other people's journeys and what got them to the places they are right now. And that doesn't matter. What does matter is that you're on your own journey and your goal is to be better today than you were yesterday.
Last Saturday was the first cross country race of the season and my first pure running race since my ankle injury. It was great to be back with the Striders, working as a team and having a bit of fun whilst getting muddy! No I wasn't that fast, but that doesn't matter at this stage - I had such a good time and it has set a great baseline to work from and improve over the winter months - I cannot wait for more muddy fun coming up! (Plus Striders always have amazing cakes at our cross country meets - what's not to love!
So just remember, your journey is going to look completely different to someone else's. Letting yourself compare yourself to others will only make you feel like you're not good enough and potentially hinder your abilities to push forwards. Focus on what will make you better tomorrow than you were yesterday.
As you have probably guessed, I am slightly addicted to nut butters, so any recipe that contains the stuff is a winner in my eyes. And these are just so moreish, if I do say so myself!
These are a healthier version of Reece's peanut butter cups, and the best thing is you can tailor the middle to your own fave flavours. Which brings me onto a new discovery - Nutcessity. A friend of mine came across their products at a local food festival and had to tell me about them. They are so local to me (literally made down the road from my house), and pride themselves on being organic, free from added sugar, preservatives and oils so I had to give them a go.
Their nut butters are not your usual flavours so work perfectly for this recipe - who doesn't love a bit of variety!
I went for their maple pecan, gingerbread almond, and brazil and coconut flavours - they all taste different but super yummy.
A lot of people don’t go out of their way to be sustainable because they think that the changes are expensive and require specialty products. But, the truth is there are easy and affordable swaps you can make. It is NOT difficult or expensive to be eco-friendly. It just takes a lifestyle change, breaking old habits and practice. Here are a few changes that I have incorporated into my life, that I think many fellow athletes (and none athletes) could replicate very easily. All small changes, but like the star-fish story, we can all make a difference.
1. Packaged foods > homemade snacks
Nothing makes you feel like a winner more than getting in a swim before work starts. But if you follow that up with a (plastic) pot of bircher muesli eaten with a (plastic) disposable spoon, it rather takes the shine off. Instead, try to make your smoothie or oats at home and bring them in tupperware. Be organised and prep it the night before, so tomorrow you’re all set.
Also, try making your own energy bars to limit plastic wrapping waste. A great recipe book I have recently purchased is ‘Feed Zone Portables’, a cookbook for ‘on the go athletes’, which contains lots of great but simple recipes for pre, mid and post training portable snacks.
2. Cling film > beeswax wraps
Athletes are renowned for being constantly hungry, so one of my eco-friendly staples is beeswax wraps to keep snacks fresh in your bag but without the waste. The wraps are a great alternative to using cling film (1 roll takes 1,000 years to decompose!) and can be reused over and over again. They are also a great way to transport snacks without the need for bulky tupperware tubs – perfect if you have space constraints in your kit/gym bags! They have a natural adhesive that seals under the warmth of your hands, and are wash clean.
If you’re really creative you can actually make your own. Or these are my favourites - Abeego Beeswax Food Wrap - Variety Pack
3. Single-use plastic > reusable water bottle
Currently we buy 1 million plastic bottles worldwide every minute, with a single plastic bottle taking 450 years to decompose. By 2050, it’s thought that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, so swopping to a reusable water bottle is a no-brainer! Eliminating single-use plastic from your workout routine is a meaningful step that also justifies buying one of the cool new styles out there right now – I am currently using Sundried’s BPA-free reusable water bottle which is leak-proof and chemical-free.
4. Disposable coffee cup > reusable coffee cup
We all now athletes love their caffeine, but did you know that because of the wax coating, your takeaway coffee cup cannot easily be recycled despite being made of paper. Almost all of them are incinerated, exported or sent to landfill because their plastic lining makes them costly to recycle.
Lots of coffee shops now give you a small discount if you bring your own cup, so get your own reusable cup and help cut down on this needless waste. I have a handy collapsible Stojo Pocket Cup, which perfect when you’re on the go as it fits neatly into your bag. The Sundried reusable coffee cup is double-walled so your hot drink doesn't get cold or burn your hands when you're holding it. It also has a leak-proof mouthpiece making it perfect for commuting too.
There really is no excuse for single use!
5. Sustainable clothing
Did you know that the production of cotton for fast fashion is the second worst industry in the world for damaging the planet next to oil mining? At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles, 25% of the world's pesticides are used to grow non-organic cotton and it is estimated that in the UK alone around 350,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in landfill every year! Brands are now proving that it is possible to create sustainable, ethical clothing without damaging the planet so look out for these when your purchasing your next round of workout clothing.
My two workout staples are Sundried’s Piz Fora training vest which is made from recycled plastic water bottles (how cool!) and Eco Tech® top made from eco-friendly biodegradable material which decomposes in a landfill within 3 years (and is super soft!).
6. Aerosols > natural deodorant stick
Another must for any athlete or gym goer is some form of deodorant to keep fresh smelling. I found Your Nature natural deodorant sticks at a local eco-festival and was quite sceptical at first as I didn’t think it would stand up to its normal supermarket deodorant rivals. However, I was pleasantly surprised and have been using it ever since. Even after heavy training sessions I am still fresh! This particular brand is vegan friendly, plastic free, 100% natural, free from toxins and aluminium, plus the sandalwood and bergamot scent is lovely! It may seem more expensive, but I am still currently on my first stick 3 months after purchasing!
7. Disposable shampoo bottles > shampoo bar and cork pot
Frequent training often means frequent hair washing, particularly for us ladies. So another way to reduce unnecessary plastic waste is to switch to shampoo and soap bars. I have fairly sensitive dry hair so found the Jason and Argon Oil shampoo bars from Lush left my hair feeling soft. Another benefit is you can get a handy cork pot, which are 100% natural and biodegradable, allow you to transport your bar without any mess!
A quick and easy snack / pre-training fuel!