5 Keys to Long-Course Triathlon Training: Part I

The focus you put on your training will determine how prepared you are at the start line.

We'd like to share with you our distilled summary of what long-course triathlon training is all about, learned from our nearly 20 years of long-course training, coaching and racing experience. Our goal is to bring you years and years up the learning curve, saving you tons of time and experimentation. In short, we've made all of the mistakes so you don't have to.

In Part I we'll discuss keys one through four. In Part II we'll discuss the fifth key. Finally, in Part III we'll contrast our approach with the conventional long-course training wisdom.

The Five Keys are entirely a function of the need to both maximize and reserve your training time investment for as long as possible to meet real world constraints.

Everything we do—the workouts, the structure, everything—flows backwards from the fact that you are an age-group athlete living in the real world. Period. We feel very strongly that any discussion on how to train that does not begin, in the first sentence, with defining how much time you have to train, is largely invalid.

In other words, we can't talk about what goes in your training box without first talking about how big your box is.

Life—not a spreadsheet, not a coach, not a book—dictates the size of that box. This is an absolute, do-not-pass-go thing you gotta get through your head. This is all just a game and it must fit within your life.

Endurance Nation's Five Keys of Long-Course Training

  1. Real-World Volume
  2. Maximize Return on Time Invested
  3. Fitness = Ability to Perform More Work
  4. Intensity = Most Flexible Tool to Manipulate Training Load
  5. The Best Predictor of Performance is Pace/Watts at Functional/Lactate Threshold

1. Real-World Volume

Your training plan is a box of workouts. Your life is also a box. You insert your training plan box into your life box. Any discussion of what goes into your training box without first discussing the size of your life box is inherently flawed.

In our experience, there is very little you, the real-world athlete, can learn from the training of a professional triathlete (genetic freak) with relatively unlimited training and recovery resources. His weekly training plan (frequency + volume + intensity) reflects the reality of being able to train 25 to 30+ hours a week and sleep nine to 11 hours per day.

Your training plan must reflect your reality: training one to two hours per workday, max, with consistent three to four hours per day available on the weekends, maybe. Oh, and don't forget those pesky work, family and personal life commitments.

We discount or ignore any coaching protocol that is either not framed in this perspective from the start, or is framed from the perspective of 18+ hours per week. That is not the real world. We begin our training plan and coaching conversations with this very simple question:

What is the training week (frequency + volume + intensity) that works for 95 percent of age-groupers 95 percent of the time?

2. Maximize Return on Time Invested

What time returns on race day are you getting for every minute of training time invested?

10 minutes to pack a bag + 15min. drive to the gym + 45min. weight session + 20min. shower and change + 20min. drive X 2 to 3 days per week

What exactly are you getting on race day for that significant time investment? What are the true costs of that time, to your work, family and personal life? If you can achieve the same results with a 1:30 ride as you can with a 2:30 ride, why waste an hour of your day? More importantly, why would you want to compromise the more important parts of your life (work, family, etc) when you don't need to in order to reach your race-day goals?

Within this point, recognize that the cost of your time, your primary training input, is highly variable across the season. For example, a four-hour ride on the trainer in a cold basement in January before your son's 9 a.m. hockey game is much more costly than a four-hour focused, race-specific ride six weeks out from your event.

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