Can triathlon training plans help you to attain your goals in 2017? We look at the benefits and disadvantages...
As one year draws to an end and another one looms into view, it's a great time to set some Triathlon New Year's Resolutions for 2017. As an athlete this will probably involve thinking about how to get fitter, leaner and faster.
One thing that might be near the top of your list is a triathlon training plan. A day to day training schedule designed by a coach that can help you to train more effectively for your key races. If you're already using a triathlon training plan, here are a few tips to help you follow it effectively.
I followed a triathlon training plan for 15 of my 20 years as a triathlete and my fitness and race results certainly improved significantly from the point when I started. Within a year of properly planned training I was winning local races and finishing on the podium at National age-group level.
Initially my training plans were just pieces of paper, but over time I moved onto PDF's and then pre-written plans using software such as Garmin Connect, Training Peaks or Strava. Mostly they were self written, with inspiration taken from books and magazines.
Following a training plan is not always the same thing as having a coach. Unless you pay extra for that personal coaching support, all you'll get is a pre-written plan, Generally a training plan like this doesn't talk back, make you feel good or tell you what to do when you're sick, injured or stuck at work. And it's not written specifically with you, your job, your likes and dislikes in mind either.
So clearly there are advantages and disadvantages to using a triathlon training plan and in this blog I aim to explain the pro's and con's. I'll also give you some general advice on where to find one that might work for you.
Triathlon Training Plans Pro's and Con's
Which Type Of Triathlon Training Plan Is Best For You?
1. Coached Plans
Hiring a coach gives you the highest chance of success but it's also the most expensive option. Your coach will design a training plan that suits your goals, fitness and availability. They will update your plan every week or every month so that it progresses at the right rate for you. And if you can't train for any reason (work commitments for example) they will adjust the plan and tell you what to do instead. They'll also provide constant feedback and wise words along the way. This usually involves a monthly fee, between £60 and £250 depending on the coach and the service they offer.
Where to Look:
myprocoach.net, britishtriathlon.org, trainingpeaks.com, ironman.com, usatriathlon.org
2. Paid For Triathlon Training Plans
This is the next most effective option. Buying a pre-written triathlon training plan offers you far greater choice than trying to find a free one. You're more likely to find one that suits you exact needs in terms of experience, duration and weekly volume. You can browse a wide range of plans and authors, read the descriptions and choose the one that suits you best. If you buy a plan that's hosted on a platform such as TrainingPeaks you can wirelessly upload your training data, track your progress and analyse your workouts. Some training plans even offer email access to the coach if you need help. Prices range from £10 to £100 depending on the duration, type and author.
Where to Look:
3. Free Triathlon Training Plans
Free training plans are probably the least effective option of the three here but they're still much better than having no plan at all. They usually come in the form of a PDF download or a print-out, covering 12 weeks or less. I've written dozens of these plans for magazines and websites, and I must admit to being limited by the strict wordcount and also by trying to please everyone. With free plans, the choice of authors and the range of events is limited, which means you're less likely to find a plan that suits your specific needs. Even so, they are a great introduction to the world of structured and progressive training.
Where to Look:
Quick tips to help you get the best from your online triathlon coach...
A coach/athlete relationship is like any other relationship - it requires effort from both parties in order to flourish and succeed. In this blog we’ll give you 9 tips to help you get the most from your online triathlon coach.
1. Upload Your Training Data.
Keep your coach in the loop by uploading your training data, so that they always have solid information to base their coaching decisions on. Online training calendars such as Training Peaks and Garmin Connect allow you to sync data wirelessly from your GPS watches and cycle computers. So you've got no excuse, unless you’re using old or faulty equipment.
2. Include Your Coach.
Your triathlon coach should contact you regularly to check your progress. Either way, you can initiate contact too - even if it’s a short email or text. Doing this helps keep you at the forefront of your coach’s mind. Include your coach in all your decisions, so that they’re part of your journey.
3. Be Succinct.
A good coach will always welcome your emails, but it helps if you’re precise and succinct. Over-long emails can dilute your key messages. Give precise information - for example if you’re mulling over a potential race, give your coach the proper race-name and race-date, so there is no confusion.
4. Keep Your Coach Informed.
If you’re planning a holiday to Bermuda or you’re working in Latvia for a week, let your coach know at least 4-weeks in advance. This enables them to plan your training around these events, so that you don’t miss out on key training.
5. Chat Via Video.
Meeting in person or chatting via video-phone is particularly valuable. When you can see each other’s faces you form more of a relationship than by email or phone. As coaches, we can see if you’re happy or sad, thin or fat, tired or energised, pale or tanned - and more.
6. Trust Your Coach.
For triathlon coaching to work well, you need to follow your training plan and have faith in your coach. If you deviate from the training schedule occasionally, leave your coach a note to explain why and say “I hope that’s ok”. There’s nothing more demoralising for a coach than an athlete who ignores large chunks of the training schedule and does their own thing.
7. Record Yourself.
Online triathlon coaching works well if you send your coach videos of you swimming, cycling, running and even practising transitions. Smart phones make this a realistic proposition, and you can even get underwater cases for as little as £20 or $30. Your coach will be happy to offer expert feedback and may even focus your training around their findings.
8. Plan in Advance.
If you’re determined to succeed you need to plan in advance so that you can get your training done. Nobody completes 100% of their triathlon schedule, but a 90-95% completion rate is a good aim. For example, if you’re having friends to stay for a weekend, think ahead and come up with a way that you can still do your training. Most coaches have heard every excuse in the book, but the most organised and successful athletes don't tend to make them.
9. Don't Train If You're Ill or Injured.
Text your coach if you pick up an injury or illness. Stop training, until they tell you what to do. This approach normally enables you to bounce back quicker.
Copyright © 2016 Philip Mosley
By Phil Mosley.
Triathlon Plus Coaching Editor & Ironman Certified Coach.
Founder of My Pro Coach.
Learn more about becoming a My Pro Coach coached athlete.
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Phil Mosley is a triathlon coach and writer.