How athletes start their year has a significant impact on their overall training consistency, longevity during the season and improvements from race to race. On the other hand, it can be the cause of lack of progress or poor durability.
The process can be very different from athlete to athlete. Based on their past experiences, weaknesses, goals for the season, etc. It’s critical to consider that some athletes train in cold climates at this time of year or are coming back from an off-season break or holidays.
Below are some tips to help those who might have problems putting together a good and complete season due to an improper start.
Making the Most Out of the Least
The popular saying “build your foundation in the off season” comes from the traditional pyramid training, made popular by coaches who trained high level athletes for very short distances. The reality is that triathletes should build the volume throughout the season. All the while focusing on consistently getting in quality workouts, emphasizing the specifics and mastering various skills. Then doing a higher frequency of workouts, but of shorter durations is a great way to stay healthy and improve quicker.
As a side note, quality workouts does not automatically mean “speed workouts”.
Doing too much volume too soon often leaves athletes tired and demotivated. All the while trying to go faster, later on, while the body has been trained to go slow. This is especially counterproductive for athletes who already have a good foundation, or who lack the ability to sustain a higher speed than their comfort zones allows them too.
An excellent objective as athletes go through the season, is to extend the efforts further, and making them more precise in intensity, as the important races get closer.
Mastering the Micro Adjustments
The start of the year is the best time to adjust your bio-mechanics, improve technical aspects and get new equipment. It will allow the athlete more time to get accustom. This only makes sense to avoid doing these things too close to races, unless of an obvious problem.
In the real world, in and out of sport, when trying out new versions, it requires constant practice all the way to the end of that given process. Absorbing and learning from what has been effective, or not effective in the previous cycle, is key to long term improvements. Using each block or season as a stepping stone, before the next micro adjustments.
Too often, athletes get impatient and fail to master what they have recently been working on. Many have a constant mentality to always be improving. While this might sound logical at first, the tried, tested and trued approaches, require athletes to repeat their small adjustments a lot, master them, before trying to build off of them again.
Modulating the Intensity
Being the best that you can be at the given distance you are preparing for, is not as simple as training as much as you can at your desired race intensity or work rate. It’s imperative to also train below and above your desired race pace.
The intensity can be altered with resistance or when done over challenging terrain. For triathletes, running over hills to engage more muscle groups, cycling with bigger gears to develop a better application of effort and swimming with various swim toys to emphasize certain parts of the stroke. These previous points, will give the much needed support, when doing race pace efforts. It also allows athletes to work with a different range of motion, develop better all-around skills and feel much better when they are moving along without this resistance.
Putting emphasis on speed changes and accelerations, early in the year, will help to develop better economy for the controlled and sustained efforts. There is not one mix for all athlete. But it’s critical that coaches read their athletes, prescribe the appropriate training blend and encourage to them to have the right mind-set, when approaching with new challenges.
The soundest objective for each new season should be to improve on the previous, not try to do everything new. Then, a big priority, not just for athletes, but for most humans, is to stay healthy. A major aspect of it, is to limit the accumulation of excessive training fatigue too early, all the while dealing with day to day stress, coming from typical responsibilities such as: family, work or social life.
Many athletes have early season races, so instead of classifying them as “A, B or C” events, best to divide them into “train through events” and “more sharpening up events” with the goal to always do your best with the given circumstances.
In the end, how you set the theme for the year, and how much room for growth there is, will be the difference, between stagnation or breakthroughs.
Have a great 2017 season!
Mat O’Halloran is a Trisutto.com coach available to help improve your performance.