Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hard Work is Necessary for Success... But, Planning is Vital

Certainly, the most exciting part of the sport of triathlon is the morning of that goal, or A, race when you're full of butterflies and overwhelmed with a consuming sense of euphoria.  Nothing can beat this, it truly is something that can't be entirely portrayed through words, but rather, has to be experienced.  Possibly the second most exciting part of the sport... the beginning!!!  When your season goals can be limitless (within reason!) and you have the unique capability to foresee exactly how the next 3, 4,..., or 12 months will play out for you... or so you hope!!  This foreseeability comes in the form of planning your entire season training plan and races. It can be a long, drawn-out process as you second and third guess every week, but when it's complete, you're in a unique position to envision how your fitness will progress for days, weeks, and months at a time.  Whether you're just starting out or several years (even decades!!) into triathlon, you have to be very very careful about knowing your body's progressive limits and when to give your body some rest.  Creating your own training program can be amazingly rewarding, but if you're too ambitious you WILL get injured and end up in worse physical condition than when you started.  Do research, feel your body's limits, know when to sleep/eat/relax, do more research, discuss/learn with people who are very experienced, do more research, and keep in mind that your training plan will not go as planned... unfortunate, but guaranteed.

This whole preface is in prep for nearly this entire post.  I'd like to share a few things that I've learned from training over the past few years, and give more details about this season's training plan (which was essentially adapted from my previous Mark Allen Online (MAO) plans... I am not even close to having the knowledge to build my own plan from scratch, but I did tweak it slightly).

Disclaimer... everything below is my interpretation of what I've learned and experienced.  It is certainly an art, rather than science.  And I am giving you my perspective... feel free to add more input in the comment section!

Most importantly, there is a simple framework that is most popular (can be considered the rule-of-thumb) for starting a training plan called Periodization.  I briefly described this approach in a previous post, but in short, it's a way of breaking up a training plan that is meant for your peak fitness to occur for your A race.  My favorite picture to portray how these periods are organized and how they differ is below....

Ok, let's skip a LOT of technicalities because I'm already elaborating more than I planned... if you want to learn more about Periodization, check out this link.  This will help you visualize why my training volume (total time) progresses the way it does for my plan overview below... this goes from last week to October 8 (A race day!).

I won't spend time pointing them out, but in my plan is 2 base periods, 2 build periods, and a peak/taper.

So... why a taper?  Why not just build as high of volume and intensity as possible and use it for the race?  Put simply, the taper is solely meant to give your body a chance to repair itself in preparation for the A race.  Effectively, by building training volume and intensity over a 10-15 week period, you are damaging your fast (via intensity) and slow (via volume) twitch muscle fibers (see another link) over and over again while giving them just enough rest to barely repair before the next hard workout.  Finally, when you reach the peak phase of training and taper begins, your body finally gets a chance to fully repair all this damage which results in a large and sharp spike in fitness/performance!!  Keep in mind, as pointed out in the earlier figure, training intensity will not taper until the final week or two.  Without a taper, you're simply not taking full advantage of the hard work through which you put your body because your muscles aren't fully ready. 

What do my weeks look like?  Well, I was able to put together a consistent schedule adapted from one of my previous MAO programs in the ever-so-awesome Endurance Planner software.  Seriously, can't say enough about how amazing this program is and how helpful it is with building and maintaining your own program.   Each week generally looks like the week shown below (which is actually this week)...

Beyond setting each discipline to have at least one day between consecutive workouts, I also set my day-off for the very end of the week.  My thought in doing this... it allows me for more flexibility in case I'm feeling very fatigued and need some rest earlier in the week.  If I took the day off on Wednesday, I would not have any flexibility to adjust the schedule for the rest of the week without sacrificing workouts.

I had planned to give more in depth information here, but this got long fast... my bad for those who are interested in hearing more.  But, please don't hesitate to drop me a line on Facebook or email if you want to talk more about something specific.

Some other amazing news to share!!  I have added a new sponsor to Team Bernatovich, and I can't express how excited I am about this one!  I've used their product since my first triathlon and have used it as a crucial element for fueling ever since.  Welcome, Nuun, to Team Bernatovich!!  And thank you for this great opportunity... I'm really looking forward to sharing this season with you and spreading the word about such an amazing product.   Whether you use Nuun already or you're interested in giving it a try, let me know and I'll throw a tube your way!!  Yes, free compliments of me, but I'm not going to ship one tube, so those of you in Houston will have to wait a bit (still let me know tho).   Consider it a thank you for keeping up with my blog and dealing with my incessant rambling at times when I get excited.   Here's to Nuun!!

Next time I'll talk more about cadence... bike and run... since it's my main area of concentration this season.  And, of course, I'll talk more about my progress with training for Kona  :)

Till then... stay healthy & be happy!!!