Training plan for Triathletes!

Can you give me a training plan?

 
Common question nowadays that many athletes who are taking up triathlon, are asking.
 
Triathlons need a very customized training plan considering the strengths and weaknesses of an athlete and also his level. So its not possible to come up with one plan that might fit his level, his background and the distance he might be targeting.
 
One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to triathlon training!
 
But there are definitely a few tips I can share about how to structure your triathlon training? Here are they.
 

Swimming

 
1. Stroke correction is super important in swimming. Look at these drills and constantly improve your swimming form. http://triathlonindia.org/basic-swimming-drills/
 
2. Invoking the right muscles – Very important and very difficult. Shoulder and back. Wall climb helps, So does stretch cords. Pull ups, Chins ups also help.
 
3. Speed – Swimming Intervals. Repeats of 50, or 100 or 200 or even 400 meters. Or mix it up. 200 by 4, 100 by 8, 50 by 16, 25 by 32 etc.
 
Common problem in swimming intervals is holding back and not fully letting go. It wont work. Let yourself loose on the interval. Unless you are doing descending intervals which I feel has limited use in swimming.
 
4. Speed intervals vs. Endurance – If I want to increase my endurance, then i will do longer distance like 100, 200 or 400 metres and take less rest in between intervals. If I am working on my speed then I will do lesser distance like 25 metres or 50 metres and take more rest in between intervals.
5. Open Water swimming – You dont need a lot of this. Its too much time spent commuting, too risky to do very often. Practice in the pool. Do open water once in a while to get used to no lanes, dark colored water and cold water temperature.
 
6. If water temperature is less than 20 then I would suggest wearing a wetsuit (not necessary by any means). If your event is in a cold place, buy a wetsuit well in advance to practice in it. Takes time to get used to a wetsuit.
 

Cycling

 
1. Hill repeats and Intervals is what you need to incorporate in your cycling workouts. Intervals in cycling could be 8, 9, 10 minutes long with a minute or two of rest in between.
 
2. Also focus on super high intensity intervals for shorter periods of time like 1 or two minutes. Use commonly used gadgets to measure and improve or if you dont have any gadgets, just go by your feel and a simple watch.
 
3. Too many long distance bike rides or BRMs is just going to be make you slow. And thats not what you need, especially if you have a weak swim. There is a chance that you may get caught up in the time limit of swim or swim + bike for Iron distance. Focus on speed.
 
4. Its tough to get better only biking outside because of lack of good and empty/safe roads. Many people are using indoor trainers. Very useful tool. It lets you focus on just biking hard without cruising. You can do a variety of workouts on an indoor trainer.
 
5. Always mix it up between indoor and outdoor biking. I suggest doing high intensity indoor bike rides during week days and long out door bike rides during weekends.
 
6. How long is long enough? This is very subjective. People who are trying to complete the distance only, they can do a fraction (3/4th) of the distance. People who like to race, the should do more than the required distance. Sometimes double the distance. If doubling is hard, then repeat in successive days.
 
7. Also, its important to bike – mimicking the conditions of the bike course you are going to race on. Elevation, road surface, head and cross wind, temperature – all these are important
factors.
 
8. Very important to know how to repair punctures. Replacing tubes is what i do. And doing it at the start vs in the middle or your bike rides is a very different feeling. Do it in practice so that you are always prepared.
 

Running

 
1. Its very different running after biking than running in the morning! Practice brick sessions. It will reveal something about your body! Long bike ride followed by 5,10,15,20,30k of running!
 
2. Intervals again is the key to running improvement. Whatever little improvement i have seen in running is because of hard intervals. Descending intervals is a new thing I became part of at Pune University and it has helped a lot.
 
3. Hill repeats is another key part of my training. I do kirti hill repeats. 500 meters uphill, 6 times. Some friends time their hill repeats and try to improve week after week. Some reduce the distance and try to sprint up and it becomes much harder.
 
4. Long distance runs at the end of the week have also helped me quite a bit. I try not to look at the watch when I am doing long distance and I try to go on feel.
 
5. I have bought a big camelbak that i use for my own hydration during long runs and it has the added advantage of you carrying a 2-3kg weight on your back while running. When you run without it, you automatically speed up 10-20 seconds per km.
 
6. There is a big talking point around MAF method and Zone 2 running. MAF talks a lot about building a base for a long long time and it increase endurance. And it talks about what to eat when. This what to eat when is more often ignored. And many runners stick to running in Zone 2. In my opinion, unless you are trying a drastically bigger distance, you dont need MAF. You need to do hard runs. Runs that are hard on your heart, lungs and legs to actually improve.
 
7. I am hearing more and more about running more efficiently, with better form and breathing technique. Not a master of that yet so cant comment.
 

Strength

 
1. If it does not ache for even a day, after your strength session, then you are not doing enough.
 
2. After every new strength session, meaning where new exercises were introduced to your body, you are supposed to ache for more than a day. If its not happening, then you are not doing enough.
 
3. Good swimmers are good because their upper body strength is way better than avg athletes. Cyclists and runners are good because their lower body strength is great. Identify your week spot and work on it for a day or two every week. for an hour or two.
 
4. Heavy weights less reps or Low weight more reps? – I suggest heavy weights and less reps so that it helps you become powerful and avoid injury. Low weights and more reps is for muscle endurance. You are already doing long runs/rides/swims for muscle endurance.
 
5. Heavy weights yes but take it up gradually so that your body does not break down.
 
6. Form is important in strength training too.
 
7. I have recently started powerlifting using Rods for squats and dead lifts. because I want to improve on my cycling and running. I will see in a few months if it helps.
 

Nutrition

 
1. You need to make sure your body knows how to burn fat for fuel. If you give it too much carb before and during your workouts, its not going to learn this very important thing. Be very careful about this.
 
2. Gradually take the distance up where you are not feeding yourself anything but water and electrolytes. No sugar, No bananas, No potatoes, no chocolate etc.
 
3. DO NOT restrict water and electrolytes. Its not needed and using it appropriately is not hindering your progress.
 
4. I have gradually taken up my running to about 3 hours with only water/electrolyte support. The key is gradually! Dont jump the gun here.
 
5. Do all this extra hard work during practice and then during the event or race, give your body extra help in terms of carbs, gels – whatever makes it feel better. And you will see an immediate improvement in your performance.
 
6. Protein is definitely needed to help with your strength. There are many varieties. I started eating too many eggs and then i realized i am not enjoying it much so i reduced. Find what your correct balance is.
 

Misc stuff

 
1.Triathletes generally run upto 3 hours only during practice. If you have gotten comfortable with this, then focus on intensity. and not distance. Because increase the running distance will make it harder for you to recover quickly and do the next high intensity exercise.
 
2. Keeping your interest high is extremely important. You can do this by going after shorter distances like sprint, olympic etc. and not go for Iron distance simply because every one else is going after that.
 
3. Relying excessively on social media support – A little support is needed. Its lonely to keep practicing triathlons year after year. Your friend circle will change – for the better. However excessive reliance on social media support is exhausting. I suffer from it from time to time and then I have to remind myself to stay away from it.
 
4. Injury is a good thing. It tells you immediately what is your weak spot. Stretching, strengthening will fix your injury most of the time. So dont get overly worried about injuries. Once injured, if you think i will start again, only after its fixed completely, then you are going to wait a long long time. You need to challenge yourself and have the mental strength to say I am going to do this no matter what. This attitude has helped me get over too many injuries.
 
5. Body weight – Food needed to reduce body weight and for performance are vastly different. Forget taking weight every day or every week. Focus on fat loss instead. Right food habits is a great way to ensure that your body fat goes down gradually. and your muscle mass increases. Thats all is needed. Usain Bolt is 96 kgs! and he is the fastest man on the planet. Do not forget this.
 
6. Relying on feel vs. gadgets – As a beginner triathlete, you need to develop a habit of listening to your gut feel. Over time, it improves and you can avoid many injuries and get your training right yourself.
7. Relying on common sense vs. advanced techniques – There is no magic pill which will make you better, faster or stronger. You need to be rely on age old techniques of discipline, hard work and perseverance. The new gadget that measure the heart rate more effectively or the new swimming paddle or flippers is not going to help you much if you practice these sports occasionally.  Whats going to help you is swimming/cycling/running more often, with high intensity etc.
 
8. Finally, how to fit all this in a week! – Short answer is you dont. You cant. and there is no need to. Fit all this in perhaps weeks or months. More on this later. Be gradual.
 
Feel free to post questions on any of these topics and I will be happy to help!

2 comments on “Training plan for Triathletes!

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