Monday, October 06, 2014

Working On It



Off season, preseason, end of season break – call it what you want but for many of you it’s the time of the year to rest, recover and recharge for your 2015 season!

It’s also the perfect time to insert a swim, bike or run focus.  Some athletes will even choose to work on body composition or overall strength.  This is an ideal time of the year to focus on one thing as you are no longer constrained by the volume or specificity of preparation that needs to take place going into your key races.  Right now, it’s ok to back off on the other two sports or make some other sacrifices without a significant cost to your overall performance or health.

How to determine which area you need to focus on?  Take an honest look at what held you back in your 2014 season.  Was it fitness?  Strength?  Time?  Is there one sport where you lag far behind in your AG or overall placement?  Or, do you walk away from every race saying if only I could ____ faster.  Did you lose the podium spot in the transition?  With a little bit of work you can turn any weakness into more of a strength. 

Here are some ideas on how to assemble a focus to improve in different areas: 

Swim Focus 

*Schedule a session with a reputable swim coach to assess form, revisit every 4 weeks

*Choose 1 to 3 form challenges, choose only 1 to focus on during each session

*Gradually increase your swim frequency (ideally, getting to 5 sessions a week – or more during a focus)

*Join a quality masters team for 1 to 2 swims a week or step up to a new lane with your current masters team

*Once you’ve hit 5 sessions a week, consider adding in a double swim day once a week for 4 weeks

*Remember: there is value in even 20 to 30 minute sessions

*Aim for 1-2 form sessions, 1 strength session (core, paddles, vertical kicking), 1 threshold/speed session, 1 endurance session

*Include a weekly longer swim (3000-5000+ yards)

*Do repetitive pace sets (ie., 30 x 100 on a descending interval every 10, change the interval as you gain fitness)

*Swim steady; yes, 30-60 minutes nonstop to build mental & physical endurance that you need in a race (which is nonstop!), see if you can rack up more & more yards

*Include a day where you just swim with toys – buy some new toys to keep swimming fun/fresh (snorkel, band, different paddles)

*If it’s not possible to get to the pool more often, insert a few 20 minute stretch cord session (half pull, full pull, tricep kickbacks)

*Learn something new: flip turns, stroke, improve your kick, sign up for a swim meet, do the January 1 hour postal challenge

*When all else fails: JFS (just fucking swim – it need not be complicated & you can improve through frequency/yards along if you swim enough) 

Bike Focus 

*Buy a power meter (there are many affordable options; used or new, start looking!)

*Increase ride frequency to 5x a week

*Consider bike commuting (with low effort/high cadence)

*Include 1-2 shorter threshold sessions per week to raise your FTP

*Improve your ability to generate power at all cadences by working at all cadences on varied terrain

*Get outside with a mountain bike or cross bike; focus on skills, handling & cadence

*Work on power output at different cadences (40 rpms, 60 rpms, 100 rpms)

*Strength work: on/off the bike (big gears, hills, wind, lunges, squats)

*Schedule strength work (big gear/low stress on HR) the day before an interval workout

*Work up to a double bike day (strength work in the morning, TT/threshold effort in the evening)

*Mix in some indoor time trials as check in points

*Plan in a 3-7 day bike heavy training camp/vacation in late winter to early spring

*Use Computrainer classes in a sensible, progressive manner (as long as they are taught by someone knowledgeable who tests you properly, often and plans out a sensible progression)

*Connect with a bike fit specialist to get an optimal fit and equipment to maximize “free” speed 

Run Focus 

*Frequency tends to go further for progress than focusing on duration or intensity

*Follow this rule: run as often as possible at an intensity that allows you to repeat the run the next day

*Build up to doing a double run day (2 x shorter runs with one of them including some turnover work)

*Run on varied terrain or trails to improve stability and reduce contact time on the ground

*Use the treadmill for short + fast sets to improve turnover/leg speed

*Improve durability by spending more time on your feet (long hikes on varied terrain/trails)

*Learn to dial in your feel (run without a watch/Garmin or cover up Garmin & check in with pace/HR vs feel after the run)

*Progress through the Jay Johnson series to improve mobility and function (view them here)

*After 6-8 weeks & if you don’t have a history of injury, consider carefully introduced plyometrics (focus on quality vs quantity w/jumps)

*Include some road races (10K or shorter) 

Strength Focus 

*Hire a movement/performance specialist with an understanding of the needs of triathlon, your AG, your gender

*Include 1-3 strength sessions a week (1 w/trainer, 1 solo, 1 core/no equipment focused)

*Don’t be afraid to lift weights – but do so carefully, with purpose and with a logical progression

*Use strength classes with caution as they can be too aggressive, too un-individualized & too risky  

*Make your progress measurable (record reps, weights, time spent doing moves – if you improve, it’s working) 

Body Composition Focus 

*Take an honest look at your limiting factors (lifestyle, bad habits, timing, serving sizes, weekends, alcohol, sugar, etc)

*Attempt to change one limiting factor at a time

*Address any deficiencies (macronutrients, minerals, vitamins, hydration)

*Hire a dietician with a background in sports nutrition or an understanding of the needs of your sport, AG and gender

*Aim to find a way of eating that is sustainable for the entire year – juice cleanses, omitting food groups – not sustainable

*Fasted workouts can work – under guidance and before certain durations/intensities of workouts

*Measure your progress once a week (looking at more than just weight – try body fat, waist, lean muscle mass)

*When all else fails, follow the one thing we know works: move more, eat less (hint: move more outside of training) 

Transition Focus 

*Pick one month where you time yourself “in transition” for your brick workouts

*Take an honest look at what really slows you down (too much gear, getting caught up in wetsuit)

*Watch some videos on You Tube of the pros transitioning – see what you can minimize & how to improve your slow areas

*Set up a mini transition area in your basement or driveway; practice 3x a week (schedule like any other workout)

*Include a short (5-10 minute) run after every swim or before you get on to your bike

 Mental Focus 

*Honestly ask yourself, a close friend/family member, your coach, etc what holds you back the most in this area

*Consider a few sessions with a sports psychologist

*Pick up a mental fitness/skills book and work through it (On Top Of Your Game, The Pursuit of Excellence, Magical Running)

*Spend once a week per sport disconnecting from data/technology & learn to improve your feel/intuition in sport

*Eliminate the use of music during workouts to improve mental toughness & focus

*Include a few solo sessions each week to get used to and work through your own mental chatter/thoughts

*Do something that scares you (a monster swim, a trail run race, a surprise workout that coach or friend writes for you) 

Athlete Focus 

*Do an honest year end review of yourself as an athlete – what do you do well, what can you improve?

*List 3 things you did well, 3 things you did not do well, 3 things you need to change to take it to the next level or reach your goals

*Select one thing you can change every day that will improve yourself as an athlete (fuel, hydration, sleep, recovery) & then implement it on a weekly basis (ie., one week of consistently getting in recovery drink or spending 10 minutes a night on self-massage)

*Talk to other athletes you admire amd ask them how they do it – get some ideas

*Look ahead to where you want to be by the end of 2015 and then set out what it will take to get there (ie., 3 watts/kg by March)

Equipment Focus 

*Now is the time to search year-end deals for equipment upgrades

*Ask a knowledgeable friend or coach to review what you have and upgrades to consider from cheapest to most expensive

Which one will you work on for next season?  Don’t just make this another blog that tells you a list of things you need to improve.  Instead, choose one and make this the season you actually do it.  Take action.  Put forth effort.  Make the commitment and then – follow through.

Simple, yes.  But never easy.

(The secret here?  Winners do what isn’t easy.  How bad do you what to win, for whatever winning means to you?)