As the race season rolls on, and fatigue sets in, more training, racing and injuries can cause energy levels to dip. After all, traditional triathlon training, focused on long distance and steady state sessions, can take a toll on the body. But instead of logging junk miles or skipping workouts altogether, follow this guide to supercharged speed workouts and enjoy better results in less time.
Since you should already have a solid foundation of cardiovascular endurance, focus on maintaining that endurance while building speed. Integrating interval training sessions across all three triathlon disciplines can be an effective method for improving performance, while saving on time. Your body will benefit from the decrease in workout duration, and the time saved can be spent on active rest or weight training to promote recovery and strength.
The Science of Speed
The best way to get faster in the pool, on the bike or during the run, is to increase your body's ability to achieve and maintain heightened levels of energy and cardio output. By maximizing output, while minimizing effort, a triathlete can push their pace without compromising form.
More specifically, interval training will promote improvements in form, efficiency and strength. This is true of swimming, cycling and running. Training neuromuscular recruitment, or the sequence and efficiency of how muscles fire, will benefit run and cycling cadence, as well as the swim stroke.
Interval training also plays a large role in increasing lactic acid threshold. During exercise, there exists a level of intensity that, when reached, takes you from an aerobic to anaerobic state. The amount of lactic acid present in the blood prevents you from sustaining your current pace of intensity. Think heavy breathing and burning legs.
Speed workouts, or interval training, when added to your regimen, can increase your threshold level, thereby increasing your output at higher levels of intensity.
The most significant benefit of interval training is its impact on VO2 max. VO2 max measures the amount of oxygen the body can transport and use during exercise. Interval training improves performance potential by increasing the hearts maximum stoke rate and volume. As more oxygen is made available to muscles, work capacity and performance output increase. The results: resting heart rate is lowered, maximum heart rate is increased and overall fitness is improved.
Speed Workouts Done Right
Now that we have made sense of why speed matters, let's look at the techniques used to achieve it. The basics of interval training, high intensity efforts followed by less intense periods of work or rest can be applied to each discipline in triathlon. However, interval training alone is not the solution. Short and long intervals at threshold, up-tempo workouts, technique drills and endurance efforts should also be a part of your training program.
Integrate intervals slowly and keep it to 1 to 2 interval workouts per week to allow for proper recovery. Most importantly, remember to warm up properly before attempting an interval workout. A dynamic warm-up followed by a light jog—up to 20 minutes—helps prepare the body for exercise.