With the new year, comes the thought of the upcoming triathlon season. We get to start with a clean slate. We get to take what we learned from last season, be it through some not so great lesson learning races, to those races we excelled at! Most of you probably have a pretty good idea by now, as to what races your 2019 season will entail. A lot of you may have coaches to do this for you, but for those who don’t, HOW do you figure out where to start with your training??
I am here to help you understand the different phases of training. To do so, we are going to compare it to “building a house.”
Before we start, let me preface this blog, by saying there are different training methodologies that work for different athletes, but the one I am about to explain is the most commonly used, and widely productive.
For those of you who have either built a house or have at least watched one being built, will understand that the foundation, isn’t really all that exciting to watch being built, poured or created. The foundation of training, we will refer to as the base period, or base building. It sounds like what it is. You are laying down the foundation for your season. This is a boring period of training for most, yet as is the foundation of the house, it is very important. Without a solid foundation, a house will eventually crumble. Without a solid period of base training, your season may crumble via injury or burnout. Now, what exactly is Base Training??
Base Training is building a solid aerobic base. It is strengthening the cardiovascular system, building soft tissue durability as well as getting you back into a routine of organized training. This type of training, involves frequent steady state swimming, biking and running. It is done at a pace that feels like a bit of work, yet you could pretty much hold this pace all day long. In this stage of training, you are increasing your volume (the distance) at a rate that is a bit more rapid than increasing intensity (hard efforts.) You are also preparing the body, for the more rigorous training to come. This stage of training includes workouts such as a bike ride or run, done at a steady state endurance/aerobic zone heart rate or wattage. Each week you increase your distance a bit, and if intervals are included, they should be done at a lower intensity. Be sure to include a recovery week every fourth week of the block. How long your base training should last, is individualistic to each athlete and depends on how far off their race is, the distance of their ‘A’ race and how much fitness remains from last season.
Next, let’s look at “the walls and roof’ of the house. We will compare the walls and roof, to the training stage, we call Build. As we know, the roof and the walls of a home are also an integral part of the house. The build stage of training is the same. This is the second stage of training and it is where we build MUSCULAR STRENGTH. Now, when I speak of building strength, I don’t necessarily mean in the gym (even though that should be included as well) but I mean building it in a sport specific manner, done WHILE swimming, biking and running. This can be done with things such as using paddles in the pool, low cadence intervals on the bike(45 to 65rpms vs the normal 85 to 95rpms,) hill repeats on the run. You can start to include a bit more intensity, such as tempo efforts done at a “medium” effort. An effort where you could talk if you wanted to, but the talking effort would be strained. Examples of Build Training would be:
- Swim: Include 5x100 done w a pull buoy and paddles
- Bike: 90 minutes at your aerobic base building zone and include 3x10 min intervals done at 55 to 65 cadence, with 5 min easy spin in between.
- Run: 60 minutes at your aerobic base pace, and include 4 to 6 hill repeats, increasing the effort on the hills. Use the downhill as your recovery interval.
Finally, after we have strengthened our cardiovascular system/soft tissue and we have worked on muscular strength, we can finally add the third component which is PEAK or speedwork. I compare speed work to the “pretty stuff” inside a house. It is what makes a house a home. The pretty countertops, furniture, curtains and personal items. We can live without these things, but they are nice to have. It goes the same for speedwork. We can complete a race without it, especially a full distance Ironman or Half Ironman, but it is very helpful and again, nice to have. It is in this stage of training, where increasing volume drops but adding hard effort intensity, goes up. This stage of training includes tempo efforts and shorter, very high intensity intervals done at best effort or a heart rate zone in which you would be racing a sprint or Olympic distance race. For some athletes who are injury prone or coming off a season of injury, they may not want to add this stage in and continue working in their base and build stages. This stage of training, if not properly prepared for, presents the greatest risk for injury. It should be approached with caution and only when the athlete is truly ready. For some athletes, in this stage of training, recovery weeks may be inserted every third week versus every fourth week. Examples of workouts for this stage would include things such as:
- Swim: 10 x 25 yards at best effort with 20 seconds recovery in between each
- Bike: Complete 5x5 min intervals at best sustainable effort with 5 min easy recovery in between each.
- Run: complete 6 X Half mile repeats with 2.5 min easy recovery in between each.
After these three stages of training, you will be ready for that sweet period we call TAPER! With the house building, we call it the House Warming Party! It is time to rest the body and drop the volume but leave in some race specific pacing. It is here you let the fitness set in and...
Get ready for your very best RACE DAY!!
Written by Jackie Miller, Triathlon Coach & Siren Luminary
Follow Jackie on Instagram @jackiemiller5298
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