Training for a triathlon – trying to improve three disciplines during the week – can seem daunting and overwhelming and it is easy to question if you are spending enough training time on each. Here are a few items to consider when you are training, whether you are putting a training plan together or are having a hard time trusting the one you have.
A good rule of thumb for any triathlon is to note that you will spend half of the race on the bike. For example, if you finish Nation’s Triathlon in three hours, chances are you spent around an hour and a half on the bike. That fact alone should tell you something….you need to make sure you are spending a high percentage of your training time on your bike.
When I am training for a long triathlon, I usually ride 3-4 times a week. I do a brick workout on Tuesday – a brick is when you ride and then immediately go for a run – ride on Wednesday, a long ride on Saturday and typically a recovery ride on a varying day. Although you need to give your body time to recover after long rides, biking is a low impact sport so your body isn’t necessarily taking a beating like running.
Running always comes during the part of the race when we are the most tired. However, if you train properly, you can put ourselves in a position to run well at the end of your race. Like biking, I typically run 3-4 times a week, but I take care that I spread the runs out so that my body can recover after the pounding running puts on the body. As I said before, Tuesday is brick day for me. This workout makes the bike to run transition feel more comfortable. For these workouts, I am usually riding at least twice as long as I run. I might ride for 90 minutes and then do a 40 minute run. Thursday is another run day and is typically speed work. I either run at a faster pace, do interval work or do a track workout. Sunday is my long run day and I might have another short recovery run throughout the week. Take care to run at different tempos, challenge yourself on the speed days, keep a steady pace on the long days and just get used to the transition on brick days. If your body has different speeds it can defer to, it will be much easier to lock in during the last leg of your triathlon.
It has been said that you cannot win a triathlon in the swim but you can certainly lose it. Swimming is probably the most polarizing of the three disciplines. Some athletes are scared of the water or open water swimming, some may be slow, and some have been swimming all of their lives and will fly through the water. The good thing about swimming is that it doesn’t require the recovery time of running or biking. Like everything else, I swim 3-4 times a week but can do more or less if I want.
I have found that if you truly want to become a better swimmer you need to invest time in the water, join a master’s clinic and/or hire a coach. You can spend as much time as you want in the water, but, just remember, during the race, you will likely spend less time swimming than anything. It is important to prepare yourself to swim the distance and become comfortable sighting and swimming in the open water but, compared to biking and running, the amount of time you need to spend to accomplish that will probably prove to be less than that of biking and running.
It is good to have a plan, but it is also good to listen to your body and gauge what you want to do. If you have been riding a lot and have been on some epic rides the past couple of weeks, you may want to spend a little more time in the pool or running. The same goes for the other disciplines. Having a plan and following it is a very effective way to prepare yourself for success, but take care that you don’t become a slave to your plan.