5 Keys of Long-Course Triathlon Training--Part III: TeamEN vs. Traditional Training

In Part I we introduced you to the Five Keys, and discussed one through four. In Part II we discussed Key 5, lactate threshold training. Finally, in Part III, we'll summarize how the "TeamEN Way" is different from how you've probably been accustomed to thinking about long-course triathlon training.

Let's start by reviewing perhaps the foundation of all endurance training:

Progressive Overload

Your body is lazy, only adapting to the stress that you place upon it. The objective of training is to impart greater and greater stresses on your body—progressive overload—forcing it to adapt and become more fit. Traditional long-course triathlon training ignores or obfuscates this fundamental principle. Instead the focus of the discussion is:

? Magical, tasty, aerobic adaptations that happen at Zone 1 to 2 and do not happen in Zone 3 or 4. All you need to do is just punch the clock (a lot) in these zones and your body will be ready for the race...which it will, no doubt.

But this approach ignores the science of human physiology, which says that increased fitness is the expression of adapted muscle fibers. These fibers are recruited and forced to adapt across a range of intensities, such that work in Zone 3 and 4 also accomplishes your Zone 1 and 2 objectives while also making you significantly faster and decreasing your overall time investment.

? Training volume required for the distance. In our experience, volume has been at the center of long-course triathlon discussions, training plans, and lore, becoming deeply anchored within the culture of our sport: "How long does my long bike/run need to be before I'm ready for a successful race? How many total hours do I need to train this, that and the other week? I read/heard that Joe Pro/The Local Fast Guy does 20 to 30 hours per week!"

The fundamental flaws of these perspectives are:

  • The purpose of training is to introduce greater and greater stress on my body, forcing it to adapt. But...
  • The only intensity I'm allowed to sit on is Zone 1 to 2 because that's only where the good stuff happens. But...
  • If my intensity is to remain static, the only tool I have left to manipulate training stress is training volume. But...
  • If I'm a real person in the real world with real world time constraints, and volume is my primary training tool...what happens when I run out of volume?

The Answer

After working with age groupers for so long, we've learned age-grouper-specific perspectives and tools:

Divide your training week into Weekday Hours and Weekend Hours:

Weekday Hours: What is the amount of time each day that life gives me to train while still meeting all of my other (more) important obligations? If the answer is one hour on Monday, an hour and a half on Tuesday, 45 minutes on Wednesday, etc, that's the box that life gives you.

Fit your training within that box and then focus on the details, particularly the appropriate intensity of each session, to ensure you're getting the best return from your training time investment.

Weekend Hours: What amount of training volume is repeatable (physically, mentally, family-ly) week after week after week? Maybe it's a 2.5-hour ride on Saturday and 1.5-hour ride on Sunday, but anything over this begins to quickly place a lot of stress on your other obligations. That's fine, it is what it is.

We recommend you "Keep the volume as low as you can for as long as you can." Set the expectation that, about eight to 10 weeks out from your race, you're going to be asking for a few extra hours of training on the weekends because the race distance requires a larger volume investment.

So, rather than nickel and diming your family for two-plus hours of extra, high life-cost training every weekend for months and months before your race, bank those SAUs (Spousal Approval Units) and ask, months in advance, for permission to cash in those chips on a small handful of very valuable weekends much closer to the race, where the race-specific volume will do you the most good.

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