This is accomplished by interval work of very short duration, followed by short rest. Because the work effort is so short, your heart always has a chance to recover before lactate accumulates seriously in the bloodstream.
These sessions should not be overly stressful; they should feel more like getting the kinks out before the serious stuff in the future.
As you transition out of the aerobic base period, here are some good workouts to prepare you for anaerobic sessions:
Swim: a series of 25-yard sprints followed by 25 yards of slow freestyle or alternate stroke. You will become accustomed to race pace and hard interval turnover rate.
Bike: a series of accelerations lasting one minute to 1:30 with an equal rest period. It's nice to do these in the hills where your hard efforts can match terrain. Punch it up a short, steep hill or rolling section and coast downhill. You can vary the accelerations to sync with the terrain. The drill is to acquaint the legs with a little pain before you go into long sustained hard efforts.
Run: a set of 40/20's lasting 10 minutes. This involves a brisk 40-second effort (at ~5K race pace), followed immediately by a slow jog for 20 seconds. This develops leg turnover without stressing the heart too much due to frequent rest.
Remember that during the anaerobic period all of your other workouts are characterized as "fill in the blanks." The top priority is to be 100 percent rested and motivated for your intense workouts.
Volume should be a minimal consideration; accept that training volume should drop dramatically during the six-week anaerobic phase. You use your experience and life variables to determine what you can do while ensuring that you are rested and ready for the hard stuff.
Peaking strategy before a race: The best way to get ready for a big race is to totally rest early in the week of big race, then steadily build in the final three days before the race.
For example, for an Olympic-distance race: Monday moderate, Tuesday hard workout (like 20K bike time trial), Wednesday easy, Thursday off, Friday moderate, Saturday moderate with 10 minutes of pickups at race pace in each event (like 10 x 50 in pool, 10-minute time trial on bike at race pace, 5 x 2 minutes at race pace running), Sunday race.
Just like in the pool with workout sets, the best performances usually come after you proceed through a few warm-up sets and then head into the main set.
Nutrition: The old school approach of "carbo loading" for a big race has rightfully been discarded and updated with advice to always eat a healthy, nutritious diet. Especially in the final weeks before a big event, it is helpful to cut back or eliminate some of your vices like sweets, junk food and caffeine and make efforts to eat clean, healthy, naturally nutritious foods.
The day before the race, I counsel athletes to eat a huge breakfast, a big lunch and a very, very small dinner. It is critical to get your muscles and your liver completely fueled by race morning, but just as critical to have digestive system light and empty when the gun goes off.
Here are some quick tips to help you improve your diet:
1. Increase awareness of junk food habit.
- Eat plenty of fruit for dessert
- Notice when you are satisfied vs. idle snacking
2. Eat more healthy food throughout day.
- Stimulates metabolism, regulates appetite
- Large balanced breakfast and lunch, healthy snacks
3. Shop exclusively at an alternative grocery like Whole Foods or Trader Joes. These stores do the homework for you!
- Discover healthy snacks to have around at all times
- Discover replacements for common foods that contain offensive ingredients
4. Eliminate BIG THREE offending foods from diet:
- Refined carbs: replace with whole grain products
- Hydrogenated fat: TOTAL elimination (deep fried, frozen, boxed junk food)
- Caffeine: Build energy naturally and cut back immediately
On race day, the most important thing of all is to have fun and remain in a positive frame of mind at all times. Extreme endurance events like a half-Ironman are a physical and mental challenge.
If you catch yourself harvesting negative thoughts, look around and enjoy the scenery—an instant cure. Remind yourself how lucky you are to be healthy and able to swim, pedal a bicycle and run.
Negative thoughts and verbalizations will make your tired and stressed and compromise your performance. Take the opportunity to reframe every negative thought or statement into a positive one. This is a great lesson for not only triathlon but all of life!
Brad Kearns is a former national champion and No. 3 world-ranked triathlete and noted author, speaker and coach in the multisport world for the last 18 years. His www.bradventures.com features a hand-picked, premium quality selection of healthy nutritionals and lifestyle products for endurance athletes, with extensive supportive information. Kearns's Power Month book+audio CD kit outlines a 30-day program to "Change Your Life" with daily Action Plans for one week each in the areas of Diet, Exercise, Health and Personal Growth.
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