Tech for your connected self

Professional triathlete Lucy Charles on how to train with wearables

As we gear up for the cycling leg, we get some expert advice on how to prepare

In a few weeks' time, Team Wareable will be taking on the AJ Bell London Triathlon. And though it's only the relay version we'll be taking part in, the in-house, pre-race competition is already ramping up. Sure, we're a team on paper and ostensibly in the photo finish, but there's always the inevitability of one member in the trio being carried on race day.

Executive editor James will be logging up miles on the pavement, editor Mike will be donning the wetsuit and getting kicked in the face for the swimming leg, and I'll be representing the weak portion of the trio by logging a mediocre cycling time. That's right, reader, I am that member being carried.

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Why the lack of confidence? Well, I'm more of a dabbler, and by that I mean I don't really excel at any of the three sports. If there was inexplicably a weightlifting leg added to the event, I'd be a bit more comfortable, but alas, cycling is still my strongest suit of the three. And it's also the portion I'd most enjoy, since spending a few hours on my bike at the weekend is something I always look forward to. But, even still, racing is a different beast.

The distance is more than manageable – it's the negotiation of other riders and still managing to bomb through the 20km which is what I'm not experienced with. Hell, I'm even having doubts about my ability to secure the race chip to my ankle, but that's another issue altogether.

Professional triathlete Lucy Charles on how to train with wearables

Show me the way

All this, as you can imagine, is why I've been spending my daily sessions in the gym a little differently over the past couple of months. But though I've been clocking up the miles after strength training and feel more confident about my ability to hold up against the other two members of Team Wareable, I've still hunted down the advice of a professional – you know, someone who knows what they're actually doing when it comes to racing and, more specifically, time in the saddle.

Lucy Charles, a professional triathlete who most recently won the African Ironman Championship, set a new personal best time of 8:56:10. And since this involves a 3.8km swim and a full 42.2km marathon either side of a 180.2km ride, I figure I could learn a couple of things about preparing for my own mini challenge – particularly when it comes to maximising my tech to aid performance on race day.

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"I only got my first sports watch back in 2014 when I switched over to the triathlon from swimming," Charles tells me. "It was one of the most basic Polar watches on the market – I think it only read my heart rate and running pace. You couldn't even upload to Strava, which was the main reason for eventually upgrading. However, that watch served me well for my first Ironman triathlon in July 2014."


As a relative newbie to using wearables for training, Charles now says she uses the Polar V800 for run training and indoor biking with Zwift, while switching to the Polar M460 bike computer for outdoor jaunts.

"I like to see my numbers and the data in front of me when I'm outside, rather than having to look at my wrist," she continues. "I'm a bit of a bike power geek, too; I love watching my numbers and trying to improve my functional threshold power."

Professional triathlete Lucy Charles on how to train with wearables

Training for competition

But, as anybody training for a race knows, forming a plan and analysing data as you go along is essential to making sure your body is prepared in time. When we recently spoke with the team trainer of Tour de France team Wanty-Groupe Gobert, he told us how he used both Polar Flow and TrainingPeaks (the popular training platform for triathletes and elite-level cyclists) to manage the plans and data for each rider, and it's a similar setup for Charles.

"Polar Flow records really detailed information about each training session, and that just allows me to monitor my progress and plan further training. Obviously, the V800 also links to my heart rate and bike power meter, so I can easily see my data during each session and get that full picture which you need," she says.

"My fiancé Reece Barclay is also my coach and training partner, and we also use Training Peaks to kind of map out my plan. The good thing is that this can be adapted every day, depending on how fatigued or fresh I'm feeling. As I say, he's also my training partner, so we also have to plan our routine around swim squad and run club sessions."

I'm a bit of a bike power geek… I love watching my numbers and trying to improve my functional threshold power

But although technology helps form a considerable amount of Charles' training, there's still a couple of things she'd like see sports watches improve on.

"I would love a watch that could read exactly what state my body is in, taking into account hydration, sleep, everything. And from there it would need to tell me how I should train that day – so whether my body is ready to take on something at a high intensity, or if I need to take it a bit steadier – and then alert me when I've reached my target training load for the day."

Until we know for sure just how our body is coping with the strain of intense exercise, though, Charles offered up a tip to those deep into their cycling training for the triathlon.

"Knowing and trusting your kit is important – especially when you have fast descents and tough climbs. But you need to listen to your body, too. Quality will always beat quantity when it comes to training, and you need to allow your body to get the rest it needs between training sessions and focus on nailing the quality in each session."

Thankfully, I'm not taking on the 180.2km ride Charles has to contend with during Ironman contests, but, even so, if anybody needs me I'll be on the indoor trainer and preparing my legs for the 20km sprint.

To find out more about Lucy Charles, head to her page on Red Bull.


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1 comment

  • leV says:

    Weird how she talks about her Polar watches, yet in all official pictures she seems to be wearing a Garmin watch. Did she switch or is Polar her new sponsor?

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