I don’t see great value in purchasing and downloading a twelve or twenty week generic training plan. Yes you will get some ideas on how to structure a program and some of the sessions may be perfect for you. I am a true believer in having a program based around you, your goals, work, family and lifestyle.
There are so many veritable when it comes to creating your own training program like
- Available training hours
- What, when and where is your main race for the season
- Current fitness level
- Weakness and strengths
- How are you feeling/fatigue levels, etc
- Does your available training hours make it work spending time on weakness, doing a typical base training block, maybe MAF training could be better or is short, hard and fast going to be best.
Available Training Hours
I’m not one of these coaches who makes their athletes write down how many hours you work a week, how many hours you sleep, how many hours you travel, etc with the hope of finding out how much training can that athlete do. I want to know the athlete’s available training hours. This can change day to day, week to week, month to month.
Example of this would be
Tuesday: 0500-0700 & 1800-2000
Thursday: 0500-0700 & 1800-2000
Sunday: 0600-0900 & 1500-1600
From this, I can see this athlete has approximately 24 hours in a week to train. Just because that athlete has 24 hours available training hours, doesn’t mean they should use everyone of them. Yes recovery is important but also you need keep in mind, is doing extra miles on a day going to cause problems for other key training sessions the next day or day after.
What, When and Where
While it is hard to write in great details about this because there are so much to consider, I will give some things to think about. The typical way of thinking for a triathlete to train is base training for 3 months, build training for over two months with a taper and peak at the end giving you a six month training plan.
There simply is way too many faults with this way of thinking (I’ll leave this for another blog) but to keep things simple for now, taking the information from your available training hours, look at the time frame from now to your main race and now you have a starting point.
Basics of your training program
Again, keeping everything simple, using a spread sheet or I personally use a online training program for me and my athletes called Final Surge
, you can start laying the basics down on your program.
Normally this is a “basic” rule of thumb for each distance when creating your program.
- Sprint Distance: Speed work
- Olympic Distance: Speed and Strength
- Half Ironman: Endurance and Strength
- Ironman: Endurance and Strength
Examples of this would be
Sprint and Olympic Distances
70.3 and Ironman
I won’t get into this too much now but some athletes work best with a ten day program that can look something like this.Day 1: Strength
Day 2: Speed
Day 3: Strength
Day 5: Easy
Day 6: Aerobic
Day 7: Strength
Day 8: Speed
Day 9: Aerobic
Day 10: Rest day or easy day
Ideally you need these four things each week
1. Long Swim that is the same or greater than the distance you will be racing.
2. Long Ride that is the same or greater than the distance you will be racing (more is always more with this session).
3. Long run that is or greater than your race (except for Ironman distance athletes, cap this at 20 miles or 3 hours, whatever comes first).
4. A brick session
As long as you have these four things in your weekly program, you can then look at inserting all the other sessions around these sessions and as you learn more and get to know your body with what works and what doesn’t, this becomes a lot easier.
If you are to follow what so many coaches and books teaches you, you are more of less spending winter doing base training except that this is a shocking time of year to do this kind of training for most of us. There is less sun light, it is cold and for many of us, icy and dangerous.
In an ideal world, clocking up some big miles, working on weaknesses between six months and three months from your main race is a great idea however for most of us, its just not the best option so doing a reverse periodization plan is the best option when you spend the colder months working more on speed and strength will give you a bigger bang for your buck and as the weather warms up, you can then start to include greater miles into your training blocks.
If you have only got under ten hours a week to train and you are training for a 70.3 or an Ironman, there really isn’t such a thing as base training for you. You haven’t got enough training hours in the week to get the benefits from this.
Are you aerobically fit?
Looking at your aerobic fitness or what I like to call “building your aerobic engine” is a good option for running and often cycling as well. I am a big advocate for the MAF concept. Created by Dr. Phil Mafitone, the MAF concept is heart rate training that is 180 minus your age. For example, I am 35 years old so 180-35=145. This makes my MAF zone 135-145. For when I am doing a MAF training block, I will spend as much time as possible keeping my HR between 135-145.
If you are fit, you can increase this number by 5 beats per minute. If you have had an injury in the past six months, decrease this by 5 beats per minute.
If you would like to use this concept in training (not too close to racing), you really need eight weeks of training at MAF to see the benefits. This means all your runs for the eight weeks should be at MAF. At first you will most likely have to walk a bit to lower your heart rate and over time, you should see your pace increase whilst training within that heart rate zone.
I made mention in the training week examples, “strength days”. This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym. You can get your strength training a number of ways.
- Swimming with paddles
- Hill repeats
- Low cadence riding
- adding hills within a session
Yes the gym can help greatly but again, I refer back to your available training hours,Sometime you are much better off getting your strength work in through your normal training than going to the gym, Many world champions don’t step foot in the gym ever.
However, If you are over 35 years old and have got the available training hours, I would recommend gym strength work. Not only to become a stronger athletes, but also a stronger 70 year old.
How far should my brick sessions be? This depends greatly on you. A lot of athletes can get away with a 30-50 minute run off the bike however, if you are doing your long runs well, not missing your training sessions and find you are bonking in the last half of the run in your race, look at increasing your brick distance.
Another option could be is doing a one hour ride before your weekly long run. At first make the ride easy and slowly increase intensity.
All the magazines will tell you spend winter working on weaknesses. This is great if again, your available training hours will let you, if you are actually training to really improve your weaknesses and not robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Most triathletes, their weaknesses is the swim. To improve, we are told, more is more. Speed, speed, speed. But if you are doing nothing but speed work in the water and not seeing any improvements, you are most likely wasting your available training time. Your time may be best spent working on core strength to help improve positioning in the water or more swimming with pull, paddle and band or technique correction. You maybe best to see someone who know “triathlon swimming” to help here.
I don’t mind having athletes do yoga or stretch session as long as it doesn’t get in the way of everything else and it actually compliments what we are doing. If you can only train an hour a day, you need to cut all the fluff like yoga, gym, etc and spend that time swimming, cycling and running.
I have recently started everyday with doing 10-20 minute session that combines yoga/balance, core and movements. Yes I wake up a little earlier to do it and I feel amazing for it.