Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chris Sweet Helps You Build Your Own Training Plan

From our very own USAT certified coach, Sweet brings you everything you need to know to build your own training plan:

Last week I led a workshop that taught participants how to create their own custom, periodized, annual triathlon training plan (ATP) using the tried and true Sweet method! There are many solid, free, training plans on the web, but they all share a few shortcomings. 
  1. Almost all of them assume equal ability in all 3 sports when in reality this is rarely the case.
  2. They don't take into account your personal conflicts (family, job, etc).
  3. They are static.
When you understand the underlying structure of an ATP, then you can then easily make adjustments for missed workouts, injuries, missed races, etc. The steps outlined below are the same ones that I have used to structure my own training and to create custom training plans for other athletes. The whole thing is certainly an over-simplified version of what an experienced, knowledgeable coach would create, but beyond this being the free D.I.Y. method, it can also yield a training plan that makes better use of your time and yields better results than just picking a random plan off the web.
You can create your plan with a blank calendar and pencil and then transfer to something like Google Calendar or Training Peaks or use this Excel Spreadsheet. If you want these directions in an easier to print format, use this Word document.

1. Always start with clearly defined goals. These should include:
  • 3-5 year long-term goals
  • Yearly goals (3 or 4 specific goals for this year)
  • Monthly goals (these goals help you to reach yearly goals)
  • Weekly goals (do these later on)
2. Put all known family commitments, work travel, etc. onto your ATP. Decide if these will be no-training times, or maybe just a run focus (because you don’t have your bike or pool access for example).

3. Identify your A/B and some C priority events for the year.
  • “A” races: Generally you should have 2-3 “A” races per season. If your focus is sprint/Olympic maybe 4. Your season is built around “A” priority races. You do a full taper for these and take time off afterwards.
  • “B” races: These are stepping stones to your “A” races. No more than 1-2 per month. You do a short taper (2-4 days) for these races and a short recovery (2-3 days).
  • “C” races. These are just part of your weekly training load. Tuesday night time trials are an example for me. You do not schedule a taper or extra recovery for “C” races. Do not expect to perform at your best for these events. It is not critical to have all your “C” events planned out for the year.
4. Build in taper and recovery time around your “A” races
  • Taper: 3 weeks IM, 2 weeks 1/2 IM or Oly, 10 days for a sprint.
  • Recovery: 2 weeks IM, 10 days ½ IM, week for Oly/Sprint
5. Create defined periods for the entire season. If you train pretty much year round you should have 2 complete training cycles, plus a couple months of off-season training. If you follow the guidelines below a full cycle takes a minimum of 20 weeks and a maximum of 40 weeks. When structuring your training plan start with your “A” races and work backwards. Here are simplified guidelines for traditional endurance periodization:

Pre-Season / Off-Season (4-12 weeks long)
  • Either complete rest or significantly lower volume
  • Low intensity-workouts
  • Often includes strength training and cross-training activities
  • No racing
Base (8-12 weeks)
  • Build into higher volume during this period
  • Primarily low-intensity workouts
  • OK to have a few “B” or “C” races in this period
Build (6-8 weeks)
  • Fairly high volume (can be less than base)
  • This period must include some high intensity / interval-type of workouts 2-4 times per week
  • Some of your “B” and “C” events should be in this period
Peak (3-4 weeks)
  • Somewhat less overall volume than Base/Build
  • Workouts during this period must mimic goal race pace/intensity.
  • A “B” or “C” race during the first half of the Peak period is ok. Be careful racing any later than that as it could negatively affect your “A” race.
Taper/Race (1-3) weeks
  • If you followed the step #4 above this period should already be on your training plan. Tapering involves first reducing volume then reducing intensity prior to an important race
6. Create discrete training blocks within each period: I recommend 3 weeks focused, hard training then one step-back week at 50% volume.

7. Add-in some blocks of complete rest / no training.
  • These rest blocks should be 5-10 days in length.
  • Aim for one roughly every 3 months.
  • Good times for rest blocks are right after an “A” or “B” event, during family vacations or work travel, or instead of one of the step-back weeks discussed above.
8. Add-in some sport-specific blocks to address weaknesses. These should be a minimum of 1 week long and can be as long as 2-3 months if done in the pre-season period.

PRESTO! That’s it! You now have a custom, periodized annual training plan. Now you just need to know how to structure a week and add in specific, period-appropriate workouts.  You can use this basic template for planning your weekly workouts in a given period.

Designing a period-appropriate week
  • Begin by reviewing total available time for that week.
  • Next look at what training period the week falls in. For example, the majority of workouts in the base period should be longer and low-intensity. During your peak period, workouts will mimic race intensity (and sometimes duration).
  • One day of complete rest is a usually a good rule of thumb to follow.
  • Weekends are key for most triathletes. This is usually the best time to get a long ride in.
  • Long runs are also essential, but I recommend doing them every other week. I also recommend mid-week long runs. Even for IM most long runs should stay at, or under, 2 hours.
  • Doubles (two workouts a day) are great if you can fit them in.
  • Try to space out key workouts. If you have 3 key workouts for the week every other day is a great pattern (part of the reason why I recommend a mid-week long run) 
Resources for filling in the specific workouts:
  • Swim Workouts for Triathletes by Gale Bernhardt and Eric Hansen
  • Workouts in a binder for swimmers, triathletes and coaches by Gale Bernhardt and Eric Hansen
  • One-Hour Workouts: 50 Swim, Bike, and Run Workouts for Busy Athletes by Amy White and Scott Molina
  • Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes by Bobby McGee
  • For Swimmers 365 Main Sets by Andrew Starykowicz
  • Time Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Three Shots in the Day of...Sweet

When the trainer is the sane choice, I race Recyclocross!

You know you're doing it right when it's just your tracks and the animal tracks out there.

Winter beards are a functional necessity for sub-zero runs.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Three shots in the Day of...Inch

The track team up early for some hard 400s :)

After a 5 am swim and track practice right after that, lunch couldn't come soon enough!

Rambunctious class on a Friday during the last period of the day!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Three shots in the Day of...RobbyB

The Madison (Area Technical) College Pool. You can find me here on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

It was just barely above zero as I left the pool. Next week, we'll have high temperatures that won't get above zero. This has been the 14th coldest winter ever.

My capitol view from my desk, basking in the winter sunset.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Three Shots in the Day of...JP

We're starting a new series here at "Three Shots in the Day of..." where we take three shots of our daily lives.

Starting us off are three shots in the day of JP.

Every morning starts with some good old fat coffee.

California is in the midst of a solar vortex.

Ran into Jordan Rapp on the roads. He was doing 750 watt sprints. Impressive.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

JP's Ten Bike Tips

From JP: 

As biking is my one true love of the three disciplines, certain aspects of biking stand out as huge opportunities for big time savings for the majority of triathletes. Here are my top 10 training and racing tips for your biking that can help you shave gobs of time off your next race.

  1. Stay AERO! This should go without saying but too many triathletes waste the advantage given by these amazing tri bikes by riding the brake hoods. The goal of the bike leg is to go as fast as possible with as little energy expenditure as possible. Most of your energy goes to overcoming wind resistance. So hide from the wind and stay in your bars...always.
  2. Learn how to descend and corner properly. The best time trialists hold speed through corners by using every bit of the road and attack downhills. If you are holding the brakes through all corners, you are bleeding speed. Only use brakes for safety. Descending and cornering take practice. It is worth it because most triathletes handle bikes horribly. It can be a major advantage with no extra fitness needed.
  3. Train into a headwind. In my opinion, a great deal of triathletes have muscular endurance as a limiter. This is particularly exposed when riding into a headwind or riding a false flat. Over gear/ low cadence work helps, but nothing beats actually riding into a headwind and trying to hold your best speed. Bonus- this can also help you train holding your aero position.
  4. Ride really really hard sometimes. To really make a break through, you need to get out of your comfort zone and bleed through your eyeballs on the bike. I've found 5-6 x 5 minute all out intervals is particularly lethal. Find someone who is faster, tell them to try to break you, and hold on like grim death. The rest interval is at least 5 minutes but doesn't particularly matter.
  5. Pile on the miles. I don't buy into the theory of junk miles. No mile is junk to me so I try to rack them up even if they are easy. Commuting to and from work has really helped and spinning while watching TV works well too.
  6. Work your pedal stroke. Smooth round circles are the name of the game. Drill yourself with high cadence work, low cadence work, and one-legged drills. Concentrate when you are riding that your upper body is still, your hips aren't rocking, and you are eliminating dead spots in your pedal stroke. A great way to work on your pedal stroke is to use a stationary trainer which allows for a controlled environmental to drill any number of aspects of your technique. My trainer preference is the Super Magneto Pro from Cycleops. Some good drill advice can be found here. Get a trainer and dive in!
  7. This isn't all about the man (or woman), it's also about the machine. Clean, maintain, and replace old parts on your bike. The friction in your drive train is very important and dirty, gritty, or old parts can slow you down. Pay particular attention to your chain as it tends to wear pretty quickly. I have also found bottom bracket bearings upgrades to be a good bang for your buck. Hawk Racing bearings are what I ride and I am blown away by how much of an improvement they are over stock bearings. Watch the video.
  8. Get fitted on your bike. Do your research and go to a fitter that knows what he/she is doing. Generally, Retul or 3-D fitting is worth the somewhat steep price tag. It will make you more efficient, possibly improve your power, and reduce potential for injury. All good things.
  9. Know your course. Pre-riding your course will help your know the good lines to take in the corners or descents. It will also help you understand how to attack the course in terms of pacing and holding your speed. Variable effort is a component of time trialing. Remember that the goal is not to have the highest normalized power but to have the fastest speed. At the bare minimum, drive the course but riding is better.
  10. Training and fitness trump any piece of gear. Ride your bike a lot. Tony Martin doesn't need a time trial bike. He can beat you on a tricycle.
If you're interested, you can check out some of my training on Strava: