Simple ways to be smart about choosing races...
Planning your season properly is such an important job when you consider the blood, sweat and tears that go into your training. It should take careful research, thought and planning. It’s not something you do on the back of an envelope. And you shouldn't be entering races on a whim just because your mate suggests it (yep, I've done this).
To help you make smarter choices, check out our simple five-point list below.
Five Things to Consider When Planning Your Season
Does the race suit your strengths and weaknesses? We’re all naturally better at some things than others, so to maximise your chances of success and enjoyment you should choose your races accordingly. For example, if you’re great at hilly courses in hot weather, make sure you enter plenty of them. We all get a kick from doing well.
If you’re not sure whether or not to enter a particular race, ask yourself this: Is it an event that you’ll really look forward to? If the prospect of racing doesn’t get you excited, the chances are it won’t motivate you to train hard either. So choose something better instead.
4. Meaningful Outcome
The more good reasons you have for doing a race, the more you’ll enjoy training for them. Therefore, seek events that offer the potential for a meaningful personal outcome.
5. Minimise Race Stress
Are your races stressful in terms of travel, location, cost and accommodation? We’ve all been guilty of entering races and then later realising they’re a complete nightmare to travel to or there’s nowhere left to stay. Minimising stress is important if you want to race to your potential.
That's all for this week. In next week's blog, we'll show you how to prioritise each race you've entered so that you can make sure you peak at the right times.
by Phil Mosley, Ironman Certified Triathlon Coach, Triathlon Plus Coaching Editor and founder of My Pro Coach.
Click here to learn more about becoming a My Pro Coach coached athlete.
Taking an end of season break sounds easy, but getting the timing right is essential if you want to race well next year...
Words by Phil Mosley
After a long season of racing and training, November and December are often the best months to take a break. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring some balance back into your life, by investing a little more time into your friends, family and career. Getting the timing right isn’t always easy though. Take too many days off and you’ll spend the next six months battling to regain your previous fitness. These five tips will help you decide what to do and when to start training again.
We all like to indulge in a few treats at the end of the season. That chocolate bar you always avoided, the glass of wine you turned down – now you can let your hair down and enjoy them more. However, it also pays to remember that you are probably burning fewer calories through exercise right now. It’s fine to gain a few pounds in the off-season but don’t let the trend carry on for too long. If your weight goes up by more than around 4 or 5 pounds it’s either time to start eating better or increasing your training again.
If you’re someone who juggles a busy job, with a family and friends, now is the ideal time to repay some of their patience. Stop focusing on sport for a little while and do all the things you don’t normally have time for. Tell people this is your “easy month” just so they know what to expect. Have a few lie-ins, make your partner breakfast in bed, take your kids to the zoo and do something good at work. Once you’ve done all that, you can start planning your training regime again.
During an end of season break, the idea is to recover while staying fit. If you’re used to training most days, you don’t need to stop completely during your break. Make each session shorter than normal - half or two thirds of what you’d normally do - and do 90% of it at a nice comfortable low intensity. Once or twice per week, throw in a few bursts of higher intensity just to remind your body that you’re an athlete, so it doesn't de-train too much.
4. Race Schedule
The dates of your big races in 2015 will help you decide when to go back into full training mode. Following a sensible end of season lay-off, it’ll take you around 14 to 16 weeks of intelligent and progressive training before you hit any kind of peak. If you train for too many months leading into a big race, you may actually go past your peak. So try and stay reasonably fit during your end of season break and then start proper training at least 14-weeks before you want to hit form.
A lack of motivation for training can be a sign of lingering fatigue. So if the idea of a long bike ride or a hard run fills you with dread, you probably need to recover for a while longer. Try doing regular light, low intensity workouts to help you tick over. Keep a score out of 10 of your daily motivation levels. When you start getting regular 8’s it’s time to start building up your training again.
Feel like you need to train more? Here are some key things to consider...
There is so much written about the complexities of triathlon training, but one of the biggest over-riding performance factors that's often overlooked is training volume - how many hours you log per week. Ever wondered how much you should train each week in order to be at your best? The answer is that it varies from person to person, but from experience I would say that 9 or 10 hours clever training per week are sufficient for a talented athlete to win their age group in some races. To be a pro, it takes a talented athlete several years and about 30 hours per week. Whatever your level, it's likely that you too could improve by gradually increasing your volume. That's because a gradual increase in volume can stimulate your body to adapt to new training loads, and you'll become fitter and faster as a result. On the other hand, when you train at a certain level for several years (e.g 9 hours per week) your performance improvements inevitably start to plateau.
Increasing your training is easy in theory, but not in practice. I'm sure you'll admit that it's hard enough to find the time to train now, let alone finding time to increase it. And yet, people often find a way. For example, not many of the pros who win big races started off with sponsors or government sports funding. They just found some way of increasing their training time, be it working fewer hours or surviving on less money or whatever.
If you have a family to look after, working fewer hours or earning less may not be an option. Even so, there are a few things you can do to increase your training time that won't impact the rest of your life. One solution is to do most of your runs straight off the bike, rather than making them separate sessions. That way you combine two sessions into one, and still get the benefits of a race-specific workout. Another is to slightly increase the duration of your workouts, rather than trying to do a greater number of them. This means you won't waste your time travelling to extra training sessions, or getting showered and changed. Just avoid the temptation to add junk miles to your weekly regime. For example, an additional five mile bike ride to work and back may seem like time efficient extra training, but it's probably not a sufficient stimulus to make your body adapt.
If you can somehow find the time to do increase your training volume, you should do it very carefully. I wouldn't even think about increasing it until you can get through your current training load without feeling like you need a break. Then, if you feel ready to increase it, do so by no more than 10% per month. Five percent is better.
The Serious Training Blog
Train Smart. Race Fast.
Phil Mosley is a triathlon coach and writer.