Monthly training for self-coached triathletes

This is the first in a monthly series of articles designed to give multisport athletes access to real workouts they can use in their own training as they work to achieve their personal fitness goals.

Each installment will cover a particular phase of the triathlete's annual plan as they progress throughout the year to their key event.

These workouts are not in any specific order and are not intended to take the place of a structured training program! Athletes should adapt the workouts according to their level of experience and goal race.

Below you will find a one-week sample of workouts. For additional Preparation phase weekly workouts, visit the Performance Training Systems site.

Your feedback and comments on the suggested workouts are welcome in the PTS forum.

Preparation Phase

You have completed your minimum two-week transition period after your last race. I instruct my athletes to take a minimum of four weeks away from triathlon-related exercise, but there is always someone who tries to be sneaky and get some work in.

Remember that a relaxed, balanced approach to tri now means that five months from now, when you are building time, distance and effort in preparation for your goal "A" race, you won't be about to burn out.

During the preparation phase, your focus is on technique and form. You are mindful of your form in every workout. The mental focus is made easier by the fact that your workouts are shorter (usually 30-45 minutes long) allowing you to concentrate on your form.

This is a good mental skill to work on now, as it becomes even more important later in the year during your longer workouts when you are actually fatigued.

If you have the chance, now is the time to take that swim clinic or to get the local running guru to check out your form.

Incremental change: Think baby steps

As the intensity is pretty low, it is much easier to focus on improving your overall economy. That said, this change won't happen overnight. Keep in mind that you are seeking to adjust the form and technique you just spent the last 365 days -- if not longer -- hammering into your muscular memory.

The first step in making a change is having an open mind -- doing something new will always seem worse at first. You might even notice an initial decrease in speed. Whatever you do, make sure you give your new technique a chance for at least a month.

If you can't see any improvements, you can always go back to your old ways. Remember, it's always easier to revert now than it is to modify your run technique after your strain your calf -- for the third time -- in the middle of your race season.

Work out with a purpose

There are no junk miles in the preparation phase. We are all tempted to drop it into a big gear and cruise when we hit the open road again, but patience is key here.

Workouts of different lengths and speeds are included to help you maintain your speed and endurance. Bike skill workouts should be completed on a trainer or in a safe area with little traffic; endurance rides preferably done outside.

Small chain ring (SCR) only for this month! All run workouts should be done outside (or on an indoor track; not banked) whenever possible -- treadmills only in the worst weather situations.

Swim workouts

Swim 1: (Focus = body position)
Warm up: 200 Free (Easy), 6x100 (25 Kick/25 Free/25 Drill/25 Free) with 15" rest.
Main set: 20x50 with 10" rest as 5 kick on side (left side 25/right side 25), 5 kick on back for 25/25 free, 5 kick on side (left side 25/right side 25), 5 as 50 free (fins optional for whole set).
Warm down: 200 easy choice.
Notes: Focus on body leaning into the water, be comfortable with water around edges of face and mouth.

Swim 2: (Focus = distance per stroke)
Warm up: 200 Free, 6x100 as alt. 100 Free/100 Stroke (20")
Main set: 4x(3x100 with 15" rest). First 100 as S-2 stroke, second as S-3 strokes, third as S-4 strokes (hand paddles okay for second and fourth set only).
Warm down: 200 easy choice.
Notes: Count strokes per length on the last 25 of the warm-up 100s; average and remember number -- this is your S (or Stroke) number. Remember, "S-2 strokes" means 2 less strokes per length (not per 100!).

Bike workouts

Bike 1: (Focus = speed skill)
Warm up: 15 minutes easy spinning.
Main set: 7x (1 minute spin-up/3 minute easy spin).
Warm down: 7 minutes' easy spinning.
Notes: Spin-ups should be 30 seconds building to fast cadence -- so your butt is bouncing around -- back off til the bouncing stops, and maintain for remaining 30 seconds).

Bike 2: (Focus = endurance)
Warm up: 20 minutes steady
Main set: 30 minutes steady with 30-second spin-ups every 5 seconds.
Warm down: 10 minutes easy spinning.
Notes: Use spin-ups to maintain technique emphasis!

Run workouts

Run 1: (Focus = turnover)
Warm up: 10 minutes easy jogging to get loose.
Main set: 20 minutes as 5x (2 minutes @ 20 LFS/1 minute @ 22 LFS/1 minute @ 24 LFS).
Warm down: 5 minutes easy jog.
Notes: LFS = "left foot strikes" -- the number is set for 15-second intervals (so 22 LFS would be about 88/minute).

Run 2: (Focus = endurance)
Warm up: 10 minutes easy jogging to get loose.
Main set: 30 minutes steady run (check cadence!).
Warm down: 5 minutes easy jog.
Notes: Keep the turnover up! Minimum of 22 left foot strikes every 15 seconds -- check every 5 during main set!

Patrick McCrann, head coach and founder of Performance Training Systems, is a member of Joe Friel's Ultrafit coaching group and is USA Triathlon certified. You can find more workout examples here. Learn more about PTS at Training plans?

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