Training for a Triathlon

are-you-ready-to-tri-herbivore-triathlete

Welcome back! This is the second installment of my, Are You Ready to Tri?, blog series. You can catch up by reading the Introduction and Triathlon 101.

This week the focus is on training for a triathlon. There are several things you want to keep in mind as you train for your triathlon; what distance are you racing, what’s your threshold, how many weeks/months before the race are you starting your training, etc. You want to establish good training rhythm, triathletes tend to be too intense and train too hard. This is very true for myself and I have to keep myself in check from developing training ADHD.

To train properly for a triathlon you want to use a systems approach; strengthen the chain, don’t break it! What I mean by this is you want to include your muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular systems in your training.

Let’s start with the stress/adaptation curve.

super compensation curve

When you train you accumulate both fatigue and fitness. Many people don’t realize that the fatigue that accumulates over the course of a training cycle itself hides the fitness gains that are made. However, fitness persists about 3 times longer then fatigue. This means that when all traces of fatigue are gone from a bout of exercise or a cycle of training, the fitness gained will persist for 3 times as long as the fatigue. That’s why most people make gains when they take a few days off from time to time.

So how should you train in order to gain the most fitness?

Mesocycle-which means month, is your chronic training load. Here we train hard for the first 3 weeks three times per week so that we never ever are completely recovered from any workouts. Then, on the 4th week we train only once or twice the entire week at a low intensity and low volume. During the 4th week we’re allowing fatigue to dissipate so that we can display the fitness we’ve gained from the previous 3 week’s of training. During this low intensity/low frequency week, the physiological indicators we’ve stimulate the previous 3 weeks “rebound” back up and above where they were before.

Microcycle-which means week, is your acute training load. Each week you will want to find a balance for both volume and duration. I suggest taking at least 1 to 2 days off per week for rest and recovery.

exercise_zones

When you are training for a triathlon you want to train at the zone that you are going to be racing in, so if you are doing a short distance triathlon, you should train in the zone you can maintain for the duration of your race. For a sprint distance triathlon this could vary from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours depending on your fitness level. For Ironman distances, you would want to train at a lower zone since that distance is significantly longer. The first thing you will want to do is determine your target heart rate. To attain optimal cardiovascular fitness, exercise between 60-90% of maximal heart rate (50-85% of heart rate reserve). You can find a target heart rate calculator here.

Triathletes who are new to the sport, 1 to 3 years, will see the most gains when basing their training on endurance and form. Find your threshold and build your target intensity.

How many days per week should I train for each sport?

Ideally you should train for each discipline twice per week, that means running two days, swimming 2 days, and cycling 2 days. If you can fit in three days for each sport, that would be even better! However, for most of us, triathlon is a hobby, not a career. It is important to find balance and integrate training with your life, especially if you have a job and family to take care of as well.

What about increasing duration and intensity?

During the training season you should increase your duration and intensity about 10% per week. As always, listen to your body and don’t push yourself to do more than you are ready for.

What about bricks? When do I start those?

Bricks can be incorporated into your weekly training plan at any time. If this is a weak area for you, then incorporate them earlier on during your training plan.

I’m a weak swimmer (runner, cyclist), what do I do?

Swimming is my weakest sport for triathlon so I do an extra day of swimming each week. I run two days, bike two day and swim three days. If running or biking is your weak sport, spend extra time training for that portion.

What about transitions? Can I train for those?

Certainly. Choose one day that you are doing a brick workout and practice your transition between those two events. Simulate race day as closely as possible. There are lots of tips and tricks to make transitions as quick and seamless as possible. I can address those in another post if you are interested.

Most importantly, stick to your training plan! Don’t develop training ADHD!!

Any other questions? Did I miss something you’ve been wondering about?

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