I submitted this article to be published in Her Sports magazine in January of 2007. Might be useful for some of you starting to plan your own season in the coming weeks…
1. I’m a triathlete and want to become faster in the cycling leg. I have a sprint tri coming up in a month. How can I get fast, quick?
The first rule in all endurance training is that you must be patient. It takes time to effect change in your fitness. Becoming a better endurance athlete is not just about becoming technically skilled; it is about becoming a finely tuned endurance machine. You will not achieve your best potential in one month, period.
That said, you can choose to focus on the cycling leg of your upcoming sprint triathlon and train to have your best possible performance on the bike. By focusing on cycling for the next month you will have time to discover your strengths and weaknesses. When you go back to a balanced triathlon program you will be better able to prioritize workouts to either exploit strengths or minimize weakness.
The first thing that you must do when planning training for a specific event is that you plan backwards from the day of the event to the present when you lay out your training schedule. If you start from race day you need to realize that you cannot gain any training benefits in the last 10 days before an event. This leaves about 20-21 days until the event that you can use for training. The last 10 days you will plan a taper where you focus on active rest to help you get the most out of the fitness you have. The exact training you are able to do in those 21 days will vary according to your ability level. It would be prudent to break up the 21 days into three seven day cycles with rest built into each one. More training will not equate to better cycling if you don’t recover from the training. Planning recovery is as important as planning the training.
My advice would be to focus a bit more of your attention to cycling in order to improve. You might want to focus on improving your cadence, getting a better aero position or practice riding at race pace to determine your limits. You are still training for a triathlon so don’t ignore the swimming and running if you want to put together your best overall race.
To cycle better, you might want to devote a few more speed sessions per week at the expense of some of your run speed sessions. You will find that increased fitness on the bike translates to a stronger run without extra run training. Cycling fitness increases with mileage and experience which takes time to develop. So in the short term, have reasonable expectations and plan carefully for your best results.
2. I’m training for a half Ironman coming up in six months. Should I schedule some shorter races (sprints, Olympic-distance, even 5k or 10ks) before then as practice? If yes, how many and how should I space them out?