January 22, 2018

Pushing Yourself

pushing yourselfDo you ever wonder how hard you should be “pushing” during your workouts? If not, you should.

Too often athletes “slog” through their triathlon workouts without any regard to how long or how hard they should be going. This is a mistake if you’re trying to “compete” in the sport of triathlon.

Ideally, you should start with a physical assessment for the swim, bike and run. The reason you want to test yourself in all three disciplines is that your heart rate training zones are going to be different for each sport. In general, your maximum heart rate will be higher on the bike than the swim, and higher on the run than the bike. This is mostly due to the fact that your body weight is supported by the bike and even more so by the water.

After you’ve been assessed you can now establish your heart rate training zones so you can build workouts that will test your limits based on your current level of fitness.

If you simply go out for a leisurely swim, bike or run you’ll certainly see some benefit to the workout but we call these “junk miles” because they don’t do much to improve your endurance or speed.

To really improve your fitness you need to vary your workouts each week to include speed or tempo, power and endurance workouts. Your tempo and power workouts will push your heart rate up into the upper limits (4 or 5 on the Triathica scale) and condition your heart to handle the higher loads. It also helps improve your muscle memory which is simply another way of saying it helps your body get used to exercising at these higher limits.

When I build workouts for my athletes I try to incorporate a speed, power and endurance session in each of the three events. They need to be spaced out appropriately and adequate rest needs to be included, but by structuring your workouts this way you can maximize your effort and improve your performance.

It might be helpful to understand the different terms I’ve just used here. To start, a “speed” or “tempo” workout includes fast, hard intervals of differing lengths. I prescribe speed sessions on the treadmill for example that might be all-out efforts for as little as 15 seconds. In other cases it might be a 15-minute effort in zone 4 (out of 5).

Power sessions are about increasing your strength or power. In the swim a power workout might include some long intervals with the paddles. It’s obviously harder to swim with the paddles and therefore it increases your strength.

Endurance sessions in my workouts are always “bricks.” A brick is simply when I gang a bike session with a run session. For example a normal Saturday brick is a long bike ride followed by a short to mid-distance run.

By knowing what your maximum heart rate and your training zones are you can build a workout that meets your particular needs. If you don’t, you’re really wasting your time.

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