116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
By Jason Clark, community contributor
It's now the middle of race season and, truthfully, your training might be getting a little old.
For the 99.9 percent of us who are not professional triathletes, finding the time to train in the midst of family and work obligations can be a challenge.
I read an article recently in which the author stated early evening and/or Saturday long rides are for the single or soon to be single. The point being if your family is a priority in your life, you will have to find a time to train that has a low impact on your family.
For me, that means I am up early while my family (with the exception of my wife who is usually up before me) sleeps. Admittedly, it is sometimes very difficult to face a speed workout or a morning of hill repeats at 5 a.m. This is especially true as the season wears on. It is one thing to make tired legs go running but when you are mentally tired, the workout can be even more challenging.
For many new triathletes, adapting a training plan to meet their needs is very difficult. We all know we need to be swimming, biking and running, but the issue for most is the quantity and the quality of the workouts.
Most people go at their training pedal to the metal, believing high miles will yield the desired results. This is true to a point, but high frequency workouts lead to mental burnout and physical injury.
It is time to train smarter.
First, examine your strengths and weaknesses. Once you identify your weaknesses, focus on them in training.
If you are a poor swimmer, shoot for at least two or three pool workouts a week in which you are working on technique. This entails a warm-up followed by drills such as 50-meter sprints with a short rest between each. Another drill I like is 25-meter closed-fist reps. This drill encourages proper underwater technique.
There are any number of drills that will help you become a better swimmer. Talk to other swimmers and see what they do to get faster.
In addition to pool workouts, try to get in an open water swim weekly if possible. These swims are great opportunities to work on sighting and getting comfortable in murky water. Open water swims also are a great place to practice swimming with other people in close proximity. My wife and I will take turns swimming next to each other with one of us brushing up against, bumping or even grabbing at a leg or arm. These exercises are more for mental fitness and do wonders for preparing you for a mass swim start.
Some people are challenged by cycling. Before you even begin training, it is smart to make sure your bike is fitted correctly. A proper fit will help you get more speed out of your bike and you will be less likely to get a repetitive motion injury.
Getting in your base miles is important. For a sprint triathlon, you need to be able to ride 15 miles. The goal, of course, is to ride 15 miles fast. Your base miles will provide you with the endurance necessary to make the distance, but drills such as hill repeat and intervals will make you stronger and faster.
Hill repeats are exactly what the name implies. You ride out to a long, steep hill and ride up and down for as many times as you have scheduled in your workout plan. Shoot for between five and 10 repeats. This drill will help you learn to climb hills efficiently and increase your cycling specific strength. It is important to use the proper gear when you climb. You want to maintain a fairly high cadence all the way through.
To do intervals, you need to find a long stretch of road that is flat. The idea is to ride all out for a specified amount of time and then ease off for a short time, repeating the sequence 10 or so times. A great one to try is called the “Flying 40.” Give an all-out effort for 40 seconds, recover for 20 seconds, repeat 10 times. The idea is to increase your body's ability to use oxygen efficiently.
You may hear triathletes talking about increasing their VO2max or improving their lactate threshold. Respectively, these terms mean to increase the body's maximum oxygen consumption rate and improving the body's ability to work anaerobically. This is the kind of workout they are talking about. In addition to that, this workout also will burn fat and improve your endurance.
Running is my nemesis. For most people, running is their strong suit but for some of us, running is just the price we have to pay to cross the finish line.
Since this is my biggest weakness, this is the phase I spend the most time training. My goal is to run four or five times a week, but life is such that I am usually pretty happy to get in three runs a week.
Just like with cycling, getting in base miles is important to train your muscles how to move. Many runners will tell you slow, long runs will help make you faster in the long run. Although this may be true, I simply don't have the time for slow, long runs. My weeks usually start with a 3- to 5-mile run at a medium pace on Monday, another run of the same distance but with a mixed pace on Wednesday and finally a run on Saturday that is part of a brick workout. Brick workouts (i.e. 20-mile hard ride followed immediately by a 3-mile run) are vital to training your body to deal with the wobbly leg syndrome.
When you get off your bike from a hard ride, your legs will feel a bit like gelatin and your feet will feel like lead weights. The key to a successful run is to get your legs turning over quickly. That wobbly feeling will go away as you settle into the run. If you neglect brick workouts, you will have a difficult time finding your running rhythm.
This area often is overlooked by many athletes.
Group fitness classes are an excellent way to build fitness and strength, which will translate to better performance on race day.
It is vital to keep your workouts fresh and varied. Doing so will ensure you have an enjoyable season and reach your goals. Remember, none of us are in this to make money. We are in this to stretch ourselves and prove we can do something thought impossible by most people.
Happy training and I'll see you on race day.