Doing It Halfway
The rest of us need to take a half way
approach to training.
By Owen Baggott
ďLess is more,Ē is a
common buzz phrase in endurance sports today. It refers to the trend of
training less but focusing on intensity and quality rather than on quantity.
This less is more philosophy is hard to work into a beginner program because
for a beginner the less training is a lot. If you look at elite triathletes,
the ones who train more are training 30 to 40 hours a week and in some cases
even more. The ones who train less and focus on intensity are training 15,
20 hours a week. There are very few people who can work full time jobs, have
some sort of life and train 20 hours a week, yet there are still people who
have jobs and families who train 30 hours a week. These people are the
exceptions. They have motivation and physical gifts that allow them to go
all day without breaking down. The rest of us need to take a half way
approach to training.
The St. Catharines
Cycling Club, that I often train with, has an informal training system that
allows for this type of approach to work. Tuesday nights there is a 40km
road race with different start groups for different abilities. Thursday
there is a 15km time trial. Saturday there is a 80-100km hilly ride and
Sunday a long 110-130km flat ride. All this fits around a regular job and
provides enough intensity and mileage to maintain a high level of cycling
fitness. The up and comers and pro racers in the club do more of course.
Guys will show up to the training race with 100 km in there legs or they
will do a long hilly ride on Thursday before or instead of the time trial.
Some easy rides on the off days make this is a complete cycling program.
There can be arguments that this is too much intensity and not enough
mileage but when you donít have hours a day to train getting out and exactly
simulating race conditions is the way to get the fitness required to be
The most important thing
in triathlon is endurance. A big part of endurance is mental. It is knowing
you can go the distance and knowing how to pace yourself for the distance.
You learn your pacing by simulating race conditions in training. You need to
ride at the speed you will race at when you train. You donít do it all the
time but you need to know what it will feel like on race day. You also need
to go beyond yourself in training. You need to push yourself to go faster
than you can go in race conditions. This way when race day comes you will
know when you are going too hard and need to back off.
also gives you endurance. The better your body delivers oxygen the better
you will be able to handle endurance sports. You get this from training. For
those of us who are forced to take the half way approach to training we need
to build cardiovascular fitness with as little time investment as possible.
The way to do this is through interval training. Interval training is a mix
of higher intensity work and lower intensity recover periods.
The first thing to say is
that interval training is hard on your body and you need to have some base
fitness before you start doing it. The second thing is for the hard efforts
donít need to go 100 per cent. You pace should be at a level where you need
to push, dig a little, to finish the high intensity duration at your chosen
The simplest way to
structure an interval workout is one minute intervals. Many road racers
structure there training around doing one minute intervals. One minute very
fast and then one minute of recovery spinning. I was told very early on in
my club racer career to do one minute intervals. You warm up, do 10 one
minute intervals, ride easy for a while and then do it again. One minute
intervals give you speed. To be successful in the time trial you also need
to do longer efforts, 5 to 20 minutes at or above race pace with appropriate
recovery in between efforts.
My preferred way to do
interval training is hills. Planning a training ride to include several
climbs will give you the interval effect. When you do hills you canít help
but work hard and the down hills and flat sections give you the recovery
period. Doing hill reps is another form of interval training. You simply go
up and down your selected hill a set number of times. I have found that it
is easy to over do it when training hill reps. It is important to realize
that you donít need to push as hard as you can up the hill, just riding the
hill will give you the intensity you need to improve fitness.
Fartlek training is
another way to do intervals. Fartlek is unstructured interval training. You
push the hill or sprint or throw down a time trial effort. You gage the
speed and duration of your efforts by how you feel. I believe this is the
best way to train for intensity.
Mileage is the key to
improving cycling for beginners. However, if you only have an hour and a
half to do your bike training you need to up the intensity and make that
hour and a half really count. You also need to be careful though. It is
possible to go out on the bike for an hour and bang the intensity so high
that it would be hard to walk for the rest of the week. You donít want to do
this. Save something for running and swimming. Just because you are doing
intervals, it doesnít mean you have to kill yourself. You just need to push
enough so that at the end of your hard effort you need the recovery period.