If you’re thinking of getting into triathlon, there can be a lot to get your head around. So what could be better than picking the brain of a World Champion triathlete and finding out all their tips and advice? We spoke with INCUS-Enabled Athlete and Double IRONMAN Champion Ruth Astle to find out about her journey getting into triathlon, how INCUS helped make her a stronger athlete, and her advice for newcomers.
How did you first get into triathlon?
I did my first triathlon at the end of 2013 through work. They had a charity place for the London Triathlon which I took part in and really enjoyed it. I then joined my local triathlon club - Ful On Tri - and my love of triathlon blossomed from there. I started with the local London league races and the shorter distances, but quickly realised I wasn’t quick enough to be competitive over the Olympic distance, so moved to 70.3 and Ironman distance. I had also heard people at the club talk about this mystical magical race in Kona, so that became my aim.
Do you have any advice for beginners looking to get into triathlon?
My main advice would be to enjoy it and put in place a setup that makes it as fun as possible. Join a club or have some people to train with, and don’t take it too seriously too soon. It is also good to remember that, generally, triathlon is a hobby and should be fun!
I think with triathlon in particular, it can be easy to get carried away and think you need all the best equipment and latest gadgets, but you definitely don’t - in some ways it is more fun to be the person on basic equipment overtaking people on the super fancy stuff! So if you can, focus on where you will get the greatest gains - consistent training, clothes that fit well, a bike that fits, and don’t worry about the marginal gains.
How did you use INCUS to train/prepare for your first race?
I have used Incus in a few different ways. Primarily, I have been using it for my swimming. The swim is my weakest discipline and something I have been working really hard to improve.
I have been using INCUS to analyse my stroke - looking at what my body is doing with regards to rotation and efficiency when swimming normally vs swimming fast, and also the impact that various drills have on my stroke. Being able to compare different parts of my sessions has been really helpful, and seeing the progress over the last couple of years is encouraging.
I have also started using INCUS when running. I have had a few niggling injuries over the last few years, so I am hoping that as I start to use the INCUS device more in running I can identify my imbalances and work on correcting them to stay injury-free going forward.
Have you faced any setbacks and if so, how did you overcome them?
I’ve had a few setbacks over the years - mainly injuries! My biggest one was probably in 2019. 12 weeks out from Kona, a car crashed into my friends and I whilst out cycling and I broke my collarbone. That meant 5 weeks of not swimming (I tried just going and kicking and doing one-armed swimming but it didn’t seem that effective for me!) but I was able to cycle on the turbo the day after my operation, and used the turbo and Zwift a lot until I was able to go back out on the road.
The other setback other than injury was the pandemic hitting a few months after I turned pro. The initial plans I had of the races I wanted to do went out of the window. There were a few other changes I made as a result of the pandemic, like moving up to Leeds, which have been a real positive step for my training.
The pandemic also meant I had a period of a few months where the majority of my training was solo, which wasn’t really what I had planned and I wouldn’t necessarily have thought would be that great for me. However, in many ways the extra time I had to just train before racing with the pandemic was helpful for me and allowed me to get stronger and fitter before racing.
I generally think with any setbacks the best way to overcome them is to put it in perspective, so focus on what you can do and the positives that could come from the situation. Generally, with injuries, you are still able to focus on at least one discipline, so you can use the time to work on that.
Do you have any examples of how INCUS metrics personally helped you?
The main metrics I have focused on are rotation and efficiency. My rotation is a bit skewed, and I generally rotate more on my right side than my left side, so I have been working hard on trying to balance it out a bit and incorporate rotation drills into my swimming to work on this.
The efficiency one is really interesting for me - particularly when looking at how efficient I am when I am trying to swim fast vs steady. One of the things I have seen when I am swimming well is that I am more efficient, but when I am a bit tired, or not having a good day, my efficiency drops right off!
What sort of things do you eat and drink before, during, and after a race?
Before a race I have a very low fibre diet, mainly rice-based. I’ll have rice pudding for breakfast, chicken and rice for lunch, and chicken and rice for dinner. I snack on yogurt but it is a pretty basic diet!
Race day morning is rice pudding for breakfast and I will have an energy gel 15-20 mins before the start of the race. On the bike I aim for 70-80g of carbs per hour, which I get from the Never Second C90 carb drink, and I make a concentrated version with 4-5 sachets in one 500ml bottle to make it easier to carry on the bike. I then use my front bottle to drink water, which I top up at the aid stations.
On the run, it depends on the race and what nutrition support there is available - i.e. in St George we had pro aid stations every couple of miles where we could have our own drinks, so I had more carb drinks in little squeezy bottles, plus gels. In other races where there aren’t pro aid stations, I stick mainly to gels and aim for 3 per hour.
Do you have any insider tips for other athletes looking to level up their performance?
My main tip would be consistency. It is a boring one, but it is the main thing that will help. So be honest about the time you have and stick to a consistent training regime, rather than having one massive week of training and then being tired for a few weeks. It is also important to keep your easy training easy so you can go hard on the hard sessions.