As athletes in the Northern Hemisphere move into spring and better weather, some are in a rush to add more intensity and volume to their training, as they prepare for their race season. This is a quick way to increase risk of injury, sickness, and fatigue affecting consistent training. Especially when goal races are many months away, and the season may now stretch all the way to October for some, or longer with options of overseas races.
Triathlon is a sport of strength endurance, which benefits from consistent training, day after day, week after week. Of course, the goal is to swim faster, bike stronger, and run faster, but many athletes try to rush this process. Steady and measured preparation is required for optimal performance. During the early phases of training many athletes ask “this isn’t enough – when is the real training going to start?”, sometimes adding 30 minutes to 1 hour longer than the prescribed training, or adding extra intervals to workouts.
While interval training is a powerful tool if used correctly, personally I don’t believe interval training or training fast is necessarily how athletes get injured. I believe athletes get injured and sick from doing too much training at medium intensity, in the grey zone, especially with run training. Going harder than they should on their endurance workouts.
Athletes also increase their risk of injury and sickness when trying to maintain a year-round training diet of 4+km swims, 100+km bikes, and 25+km runs, especially when these workouts are at race or close to race pace. My advice to these athletes is to ‘slow down to speed up’, or ‘Hurry Slowly’. These athletes may also be worried about making sure they can compete at a certain speed or pace, that their endurance workouts negatively impact the remainder of their training week. When you’re doing an endurance swim, bike, or run, you really shouldn’t feel as though you need to make too much of an effort. Power, HR, or Pace should be generally less than 70% of threshold pace, or in layman terms at a pace you can easily maintain a conversation.
If you are in awe of how fast the best Marathon runners can run, what’s equally amazing is how slow they run their slow runs. These athletes will generally complete their long or easy runs at a pace some 2 minutes per km (3 minutes per mile) slower than their race pace. Athletes running 42km in a race at ~3:10 per km (5:06 min/mile), are running their slow runs at ~5min/km (8:10 min/mile). What if you try to run your easy runs 2 minutes per km slower than your race pace? Many of us are close to walking, right? I’m not necessarily advising you to walk, but to consider the effort level difference for those Marathoners between their training and race paces. That’s truly a pace that they can run “all-day” and not exert much effort.
I also encourage you to try doing some workouts without electronics, or ‘by feel’. No GPS, no powermeter. Training this way lets you start to understand your body and not always rely on the gadgets that don’t know how you’re feeling on a certain day. If you need a gadget to hold you back from going too hard on certain workouts (e.g. long runs!), then you need more practice in listening to your body. You don’t do it often enough or understand what it means to train in a certain area, namely endurance. If you must record the numbers from your workout, tape over your device or put it in your pocket so you can still have the data after the workout, but don’t use it during every workout.
Should you miss a workout or day of training, remember we live in the real world with jobs, careers, study, family and friends. Don’t strive to compensate for days missed in training by trying to ‘catch up’ workouts, or adding more time to others. Simply move on, and back onto your training schedule. One day missed can save a week or month missed due to injury or sickness.
If Spring is on its way in your region, enjoy the nicer weather and planned bigger workouts, but please ‘hurry slowly’. Avoiding the grey zone is the quickest way to improve your triathlon performance.
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