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4th place, age group M30-34, Kona qualification

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Winner, age group M30-34

2013 IRONMAN Kalmar
2nd place, age group M30-34, Kona qualification

Finisher in 9 hours 30 minutes

5th place, Finnish Championship

Winner, age group M30-34


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Friday, 14 February 2014

TRAINING MY WAY part I


After my last season's good results I've been contacted by several fellow age-groupers or to-be-triathletes keen to know about my training. This sudden interest in my doings has felt somewhat strange as I consider myself still quite new to the sport and also very much on the receiving side when it comes to knowledge about training. I have been, though, more than happy to tell everything I know. But after a few enquiries I have found myself repeating pretty much the same things so I decided to write something here for everybody to read.

I have divided the text in four different posts each containing one topic. This division borrows heavily from Matt Dixon, one of the top coaches in triathlon and whose texts I regularly enjoy reading from Triathlete Magazine. According to Dixon triathlon performance is based on these four equally important pillars: 1. Endurance training, 2. Rest & recovery, 3. Nutrition, 4. Functional strength. Here in this first post, I'm going to cover planning my season with swimming, biking and running.






A few words of warning before I go and tell all of my scientifically proven secrets and methods. First, I have absolutely no formal education in exercise physiology. My school has been mostly the one of trial and error. Second, none of the things I'm about to present are my own ideas. I read a lot about training and triathlon and absorb a thing here, another there. Third, I'm not trying to say this is how someone else should train. Or even how I should train for that matter. This is just how I have been training and what has brought me here.




Planning the season with sport specific training



There is nowadays an abundance of ready-made triathlon training plans available in the internet and tri-magazines but I've stopped using them since quite a while. In my opinion they are often more suitable for people who are still getting to know triathlon and don't know when and what sessions to do. Off course there are some good ideas to be had for even a more experienced athlete from these plans, but I always struggled with scheduling in the prescribed workouts. The training plan would often have me doing a session when I either didn't really have the time for it, or my body just wasn't ready. This, obviously, wasn't the most efficient way to train. At the same time I felt bad if not sticking to the program.


How do I plan my training then?


Macro level


It all begins with identifying my strengths and weaknesses (endurance, muscular endurance, force, speed skills, technique, mental capacity, etc.) by sport and setting goals where I want to be at a certain time during the season. The emphasis of the training should naturally be at improving those weaknesses and working towards the set performance goals. This way I'm creating the step marks needed for success.

I will take this coming season as an example. Swimming definitely remains as my weakness and requires more work to be improved. A good time to train with a swimming emphasis is during the autumn and winter, when the weather outside doesn't suit riding outside so well here up north and the racing season is still far away. So I have been deliberately selling some of my bike fitness in order to get better in the water. 



Another good thing to concentrate in during the winter months is strength training, which unfortunately has been getting too little attention during my racing season in the summer. This combined with the consuming high bike mileage translates all too easily to being more injury prone, not to mention the arms-turned-thin-ropes hanging from my shoulders howling in the autumn winds.

So in other words, during the last three months the key sessions I have been prioritizing were the frequent hard swims and gym/circuit workouts. The rest of the training calendar got filled by run and bike workouts with the aim of maintaining specific fitness. I tried to have one longer bike ride (3h) and run (1,5h) in every two weeks. In addition, I had at least one intensity workout of both in the same time period. 

In February, I've started to shift focus more towards running and biking. Because of the weather, it's still not the best time to ride those really long rides but 
at least I can run. With the bike, I'm now concentrating more on intervals and low cadence strength type work on the trainer and have added an intermediate distance (1-1:15h) endurance run along with some intervals on the treadmill or at the track. With running in general, I'm more into short frequent runs instead of high mileage and really long runs.


When the weather starts to improve during the next couple of months I will add both the duration and the number of long bike rides (2-3x4-5h/14days). I will also start doing some brick workouts. I've found that a short 10-15min aerobic run with a good posture after a long bike ride does miracles. In addition, after some of the intensity rides on the trainer I will run 15-20min at goal race pace.

The race season finally starts in May. Usually I've been training through these early season races without much tapering or race specific training. While this has had a clear impact on the results, my A-priority races have been later in the season and the peak fitness has been aimed there. For these A-races I've trained with an emphasis on race specific intensity and planned a two week taper period according to Matt Dixon.

To sum up: I'm training all the three sports and their aspects all year round but with emphasis   dictated by current environmental conditions, my weaknesses and performance goals. This way I'm developing certain sport or ability at a time while maintaining performance in others. After a while, parts change and finally the overall performance improves. Hopefully.



Micro level



I've abandoned the classic structure of 3 weeks hard, 1 week easy training. By week three I tended to be cooked and the quality of sessions suffered as my body could not recover from the accumulated load. Nowadays, I'm trying to adhere to a four week period including 11 days hard, 3 easy, 10 hard, 4 easy. I'll have also one easier day within those hard periods at approximately in the middle. In this system, there's the same amount of rest as in the traditional system, but at least I am able to stay more fresh and maintain the quality.


With regard to individual sessions, I'm placing them to the calendar about two weeks at a time depending on my work schedule and life outside of triathlon. When I'm able, I have two sessions, one being an intensity workout and the other an easier endurance or recovery session.

As you can see, there's no wonders or especially new here. I'm just planning the season so as to improve my weaknesses and maintain the ability to train consistently with quality, which I believe, is the key to triathlon performance.

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