In the last few weeks there have been a few questions bubbling to the surface regarding the training plan. I passed these on to Harry and he has promptly replied. I’ve decided to share his responses as I’m sure there are others that may have had similar questions but didn’t ask.
Q: The speed sessions in the current block are quite high intensity. I thought the advice was to do all long, slow distance during winter? What specifically do these sessions target and what are they building towards?
A: The thinking used to be that long steady training throughout the winter was the best way to train. This involved lots of long and slow easy miles to build up a very good aerobic base. Triathlon incorporates three sports and so it tends to be that actually triathletes have a very good aerobic base, when compared to a single sport. The way that the majority of coaches and squads now run is that pre Christmas is the time for easy miles, but an element of intensity still remains. After Christmas, there is almost always a definite increase in the session intensity.
We are now in February, and if we take the example of cyclists, the majority have begun their block of training with higher intensities. This does not mean to say however, that this is the first taste of intensity that they have encountered this season. For most, there will have been some intensity sessions throughout the whole winter period. One of the main reasons for this is to reduce the likelihood of injuries. When there is a sudden change from very low intensity sessions to a much higher intensity without the gradual transition, I hope you can appreciate that this comes as somewhat of a shock to the system. The body reacts by inflammation, pain and consequently injury. In order to prevent this, most squads maintain some intensity throughout the winter so that they are able to adapt much more easily when the intensity increases. It also helps to reduce the fatigue that can come with such a stark increase in sessions.
In order to improve fitness, training must be completed in different heart rate zones. If in a race you want to aim to be holding 1:30/100m pace in the pool, it would be near impossible to do this if you had swum at only a pace of 1.50/100m. You need to not only train your mind into knowing what this pace feels like, but also your body in being able to cope with these demands and to be able to keep this pressure on for an entire race. Therefore it is important to be training at different zones. I think that the best advantage in training in a group is the motivation that others can bring. Therefore the group sessions I have written are aimed at being of a higher intensity because this is where the bigger gains can be made. For instance, it is relatively easy to go out for a jog at say 60-70% of your maximum heart rate; but get a person to do reps on a track on a cold wet and miserable winter evening, holding a pace that is uncomfortable on their own. Very few individuals would hold the same pace as they would if they were being pushed along by their colleagues. It was my anticipation that members would be quite comfortable to do their easy/steady sessions at a time that did not use the valuable club time in the pool/turbo sessions.
Q: This leads me on to another question which was directed at me. What date are these plans targeted at, in terms of peaking?
A: In terms of dates, and peaking we are still quite a long way out from the season (for most). I would usually start to be more specific in the planning of sessions up to 12 weeks before a race. This might include doing some brick sessions or include doing some drafting style swim sessions to reflect an open water race. The current programme is aiming to get athletes fit and safe to compete, but is not specifically building and tapering for a peak. It is really aimed at leaving athletes fit and safe to start a specific pre race block.
Q: One final question. When providing instruction on how to execute the intervals, I’ve always been told that quality is more important than quantity, i.e. it’s better to miss an interval and perform the rest at the correct intensity rather than trying to do all of them but fade towards the end. Is this good advice?
A: I can definitely see your thinking regarding quality over quantity. However, I think that it might also be important to encourage people to not make the mistake of going out too hard as many of us do in races. It may be that people are struggling because they are setting off at an unsustainable pace, better to adopt a negative split whereby there is the discipline to control the heart rate and effort in the first half of the session and then to build on this in the second half. Taking a different mental approach may help some to complete the whole of the session and not feel that they are fading as they become more tired.
Thanks to Harry for his detailed reply!
Don’t miss this great opportunity that we’re providing club members to partake in some structured training. Have a look at the training plans and, if you feel you’re able, come along to some of the club sessions that are implementing these plans. Come along anyway! The sessions cater for all abilities.
All we ask for in return is some feedback. This will help us to improve what we do and cater better for our club members. If you have any further questions for Harry regarding the training plans, please forward them on to firstname.lastname@example.org (girls) or email@example.com (guys).