Winter training, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, may have been a daunting task. The good news is you, the diligent athlete, are nearing the end of this dark season, and the promise of Springtime weather is oh-so-close. The challenges of winter training were great: It was cold, sometimes wet, and often windy outside. And let's face it, staring at walls while on a treadmill or bike trainer wasn't exactly inspirational. You were told by our Trismarter.com coaches and by the plethora of training articles online that the winter months are to be used to build a strong aerobic base and better your efficiency in each sport, and as the months progressed, it was tough to stay focused and easy to lose your way. The key to staying the course was to keep track of the big picture, but focus on each task at hand. You built your aerobic base slowly and improved your efficiencies one workout at a time. And now, as the daylight hours increase, it's time to begin adding some harder efforts to your program to prime your body for a couple of build-ups to peak triathlon performance.
Looking at the big picture, what an athlete's winter training should have been focused on was building the best aerobic foundation possible. Arguably, endurance itself is nearly every age-grouper's biggest limiter. If you think otherwise, take note that most top triathletes can run a sub-six minute mile pace for many miles in a row at an "easy" effort. Are you running that fast barely breaking a sweat? The best way to achieve a big aerobic base is to swim, bike, and run as much as possible at what most would perceive as a fairly slow pace or easy-to-steady efforts. From a physiological stand point, this means the pace which one can perform at 85-90% of one's lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR). For those who follow Joe Friel's training zones, this would be Zone 2.
Furthermore, to give you an idea of what 90% of LTHR is, let's use the example of an athlete whose lactate threshold occurs at a heart rate of 165 beats per minute (bpm). Ninety percent of 165 is about 149bpm. This means that the majority of this athlete’s training should occur at paces that illicit a heart rate at or slightly below 149bpm. Keep in mind that, in general, LTHR is different in each sport due to the differences in the amount of muscle recruitment and the impact on the joints and muscles the activity requires. So running will have the highest LTHR, and swimming will have the lowest LTHR, while cycling will be somewhere in between.
Now that we have established an effort level for your aerobic base training, it's time to prepare your body for what lies ahead. In practice, with the athletes I coach at Trismarter.com, we slowly begin adding small doses of intensity into their training program. This is often a tricky phase within an athlete's plan because, just as with the gradual development of an aerobic base, you’ll need to also gradually progress into harder efforts. The primary reason for the gradual addition of these efforts is to avoid injury. What I have found is that adding small amounts of high intensity with adequate recover is a great place to start. In addition to these short intervals, adding what many coaches refer to as “tempo work” for slightly longer periods of time is a great idea. The intensity of this tempo work is just above that of the steady efforts completed in your aerobic training, or 95-100% of your LTHR. Again, as with the short sprints, you will want adequate recovery after each interval. Below are some examples of each of these efforts for the triathlete:
Swim - short sprint:
10x25m sprints with 50m of recovery swimming in between each sprint.
Add 10 seconds of full rest in between each sprint/recovery interval.
Swim - tempo:
10x150m as 100m fast, 50m recovery pace.
Add 10 seconds of full rest in between each interval.
Bike - short sprint:
10x15 seconds 'micro-sprints' with a 30 second recovery spin between each interval.
Stay in aero position if on a time trial bike (or in pursuit bar drops if on a road bike). The sprint is a near all-out effort. If you use a power meter, shoot for 150% of your threshold power on the sprints. Keep your cadence high, between 85-95rpm.
Bike - tempo:
3 to 5x10 minutes as 7 minutes quickly building up to LTHR or 100% of your threshold power, with 3 minutes of recovery spinning.
If you begin to see a dip in your heart rate or your power meter reading, this is an indication that you have completed the maximum number of intervals for the workout.
Run - short sprint:
10x200m strides with 30 to 40 seconds of recovery jogging in between each interval.
Strides are short bursts of near full effort running. Think "fast and relaxed."
Do these on flat, soft terrain, like a track or a flat packed dirt road.
Run - tempo:
3 to 5x5 minutes as 2 minutes quickly building to LTHR pace, with 3 minutes of recovery jogging.
As with the cycling tempo work, a decline in the ability to reach LTHR or in LTHR pace indicates that you have completed the maximum number of intervals.
By adding these or similar intervals into a few different workouts each week throughout a two to three week period of training, along with a diligent maintainence of your aerobic paced work, you will have your body primed and ready to begin a strong build to peak fitness.
Lee Gardner is a Triathlon Coaching Associate with http://www.trismarter.com. Visit http://www.trismarter.com to learn more about their personalized coaching options such as Tri4Life and Tri2Lose as well as innovative Eat2Win sports nutrition services. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 917.825.1451 for more information.