Early-season triathlon training is all about building your aerobic base with long, slow distance (LSD) work. While the LSD training is certainly important, it's only one part of the puzzle. The real key is to build your overall fitness.
Why Fitness Matters
If you want to finish further up the food chain in your age group then increasing your fitness is the first step. According to Dean Brittenham, the former Athletic Director at the Shiley Elite training program at Scripps Clinic, San Diego, "It's not the best athlete but the fittest athlete that will win."
More: Are You Really Fit?
Whether your definition of winning is to break six hours in your next half-distance race or sprint ahead of your competitors to win your age group, start by building a foundation of overall fitness and the rest will follow. Here's how:
One of the fastest ways to improve your fitness is to increase your number of training sessions. Sure there's some crossover from each of the three disciplines, particularly with your aerobic development, but the more often you can swim, bike, and run the better triathlete you'll become.
Put less emphasis on duration than the frequency early in the season. Build the habit of two sessions a day, five to six days a week if possible. A routine I like to use to get started is to swim and run one day and bike and strength train the next. Other than strength training, it's very hard to get better at the three disciplines by doing less than two sessions a week of each.
Drills = Skills
The better your technique the faster you'll go at every distance with the same effort. This is why elite athletes always work to improve their skills.
Whether it's catch-up or kick drills in the pool, fast-spin or single-leg drills on the trainer, or kick-butt or high-knee drills on the run, build some technique drills into each session. Good technique equals free speed, so go get some.
Speed All the Time
If you've been off training for a while or you're just starting back up, give yourself a few weeks before incorporating speed. Otherwise what are you waiting for? Speed work builds strength, makes you faster, and improves your technique.