To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him - Buddha
When I first got serious about running and triathlon, I wanted to get faster but didn't really know how. I made the common assumption that if I train more, especially with more intensity, this would be easily accomplished. Not so much! There are numerous training programs available online, so this is not a "training program" post. Regardless of the program, you will have to learn how to make effective training decisions based on your current situation and fitness level, past experience and current goal. Instead, I'll try to give you a detailed look into how I plan to train this season, essentially my training framework or mindset, many of these conceptual practices of how to train come from both the science of training and lessons in planning that I've learnt in my experiences. The best part of training is discovering yourself.
Back in 2007 I created a 5 year training plan to try and fully develop myself as a triathlete: 2007 and 2008 were very successful, I hit a roadblock in 2009 and in 2010 I stopped because I lost confidence in myself. I want to use this 2014 season to get back on track with that plan. I will race four 70.3 events finishing off the year with the 70.3 World Championships in September.
I have already signed up for three 70.3 races. My first race is in 10 weeks from now in January. I have been fit and active for the past year, so I plan to use this race to evaluate my current “racebility” and discover my current race strengths and weaknesses, not just physical but also mental. It has been so long since I raced a triathlon that I do not know myself as a triathlete. Though I would suggest hiring a coach, as a coach myself I want to experiment with my training for the next two races, New Orleans 70.3 in April and Kansas 70.3 in June. I gravitate towards the idea that less is more, which according to many of my IM training friends is essentially being lazy. But I don't want the easy way: it is just not worth doing more for little gain. I will challenge myself this season, but not by only increasing intensity or volume, but training smarter with consistency, and hard enough with confidence. I can’t train using someone else’s plan.
A training plan will consist of varying the volume, intensity and frequency to achieve your desired race goal. Questions you need to ask yourself is: how much time do I have to dedicate each week (volume), how much effort do I want to make (intensity), and how often can I realistically do this (frequency)? Specific skills I focus on developing in my training are: endurance, speed, strength, form, economy, pacing, and mental.
I seek a higher fulfillment in training and racing: I have a competitive goal, but one that is not defined by outcomes (i.e.: winning). As a philosopher, I am not afraid to swim in the deep waters of my thoughts. I’ve tried to not think too much, but I remember every moment in my races, how I felt, what I saw, and what decisions I made. That can be cruel when you have a bad experience, but I have tried to “zone out” or “count to 100” over and over during a race, but to no avail. I feel there is tremendous value in thinking through these experiences, especially when it comes to coaching others, and trying to make sense of them. It is also important to understand why it is that you race in order to develop a healthy relationship with your goal, and practice what works for you. I run to experience freedom, and as an Existentialist, it is important to not allow the outcomes of racing to have authority over me. Nonetheless, I do struggle with confidence. In my training and racing, I am developing a simple mantra: “believe”. This gives me focus in my training, which is a form of moving meditation. I think when I run. A lot! But I have to build confidence in my workouts because it doesn't come naturally to me, it is a learned skill.
My training volume varies throughout the year. I typically train around 10-14 hours when I am not focused on a race and I will plan to increase this to 16-26 hours during the 2014 race season. The bulk of my weeks are around 18-20 hours with my recovery weeks being around 10-14 hours and my “focus” weeks being between 24-26 hours. A solid “training” week for me would be 8k swimming in 2-3 swims, ~250k cycling in 2-4 rides with 1 key session, and 40-60k running in 5-7 runs with 2 key sessions. This might be for 2 weeks in a row, followed by a week of recovery (less volume and intensity, but same frequency).
I have a general 12-week structured plan leading up to a race, and will be repeated for each race once more knowledge of what I need in my training is discovered. I don’t like a plan that is too structured with all the workouts determined prior to the start of the program – I have a preference for deciding on key workouts based on how I feel. Because I have years of training and racing experience, this works, but I also create a general structure because it could also fail if there is no attention to training volume, intensity and frequency. For the most part, I try to limit my most intense workouts to two days a week: usually tempo efforts on the bike and run, with some hill repeats and fartleks early in the season. Once I have an idea of my raceability, I will train with specificity in each discipline getting more HR, pace and wattage specific during race effort or simulation workouts. I will include more intervals and track workouts leading up to my “A” race. I try to do test sets on a regular occasion to measure improvements (1k time trial in the pool, or a local 5km race) and to set new training zones every 4 to 6 weeks because our bodies do adapt that quickly. Most of my training time, however, is in moderate to low intensity training, to increase my endurance capacity, and one day that is recovery focused. Not as exciting but well worth my time.
Training Consistency (Frequency)
Consistency for me is just as important as the quality of the workout. There are some days where you will not be able to do the workout as planned, but instead of saying “why even bother?”, I will do something anyway, or take a day off when necessary. To help keep things simple, since I am making training decisions on intensity and volume week by week, I have a reliable schedule of how often do I train each discipline:
Monday – Recovery or Easy
Tuesday – Swim and Run (Tempo)
Wednesday – Bike (Moderate)
Thursday – Brick (Tempo)
Friday – Swim and Run (Moderate)
Saturday – Cycle (Long Endurance)
Sunday – Run (Long Endurance)
This helps me to manage my time to do day to day activities, while maintaining a clear training schedule.
Maintenance and Recovery
I recently found out that my hip stability and strength is very weak, especially for a runner. I have not been injured, but I can certainly say I have not increased my intensity and volume because I am aware of this deficiency. I now have a series of exercises to strengthen my hip. I recommend that if you do have a performance goal, getting a “body check-up” (3D Gait Analysis) by a professional physiotherapist is so very important. This will decrease my risk for injury, and also aid in my performance as hip strength is essential for running and cycling power.
Before each session I will do some dynamic movements to work the range of motion within the muscles, and after each session I'll do more dynamic movements and some static stretching of my tight muscles.
My husband Jeff and I will start incorporating yoga/pilates into our routine once per week. This gives us time together, while also contributing to my racing goals.
In the very near future I'll post some of my workout diaries for you to see how my training framework is accomplished, along with how to use your training tool effectively. I use heart rate, time, speed and GPS as measures for training, and training load (stress) as the measure of my quality. I primarily use my Polar RCX5 and RCX3 for my training tools.