October 2008 Triathlon Training Chat with Coach AJ

author : Coach AJ
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Triathlon training discussions on IMWI and Ultramarathon training, winter training, 1-leg bike drills, raising your functional threshold power (FTP), swimming faster and the Halo trainer.

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[chirunner134]  I need to bike a lot because of IMWI but I have an ultramarathon coming up in 10 weeks. How much biking vs running should I do?  Biking is my limiter.

[Coach AJ] First off, IMWI is a long way off. I would focus on your running for the Ultra, then take some GOOD recovery time to let your body heal. Don't even think of IMWI right now, or even in the spring! Even with biking being your limiter, you can't run the miles necessary to do the Ultra and still get quality bike miles in. The pounding from running makes it too hard on the body to try to bring up the bike or swim.

[Coach AJ] OK, I'll give some general advice here. During the winter it is the best time to work on your limiter. If it's the bike, do shorter, interval, strength or efficiency focused trainer sessions. If it's the swim, do some technical work and work on your speed as well. If you can run outside, add in some more miles with hills and some intervals. If you have to run on the treadmill, use more interval workouts that are shorter but still effective.  I recommend a multi-phase weight routine in the off season. Progress from light weights and high reps to heavier weights with fewer reps. To build power you do need to push heavy weights, so don't forget that!

[Matt237] What kind of reps at higher weights? 3 sets of 5?


[Coach AJ] For the weights, 3 sets of 5 to 6 is fine. Always be careful of course!

[chirunner134] How important is one leg drills on the bike?

[Coach AJ] I LOVE 1 legged drills! They are super effective at smoothing out your stroke and making you more efficient. Plus, it's easy to do. Just add more reps or more time to make it harder. No real science to it. I also like mixing in some super high RPM work and it's opposite as well, big ring, low cadence work to gain strength.

[KathyG] I train with power and have since 11/06. In the last 15 months my FTP peaked out always the same both in '07 and '08....I did an IM though. What is realistic goal of improvement in a year from the peak of one year to peak of next year?

[Coach AJ] That's tough to answer. It depends on your level of fitness and how old you are. As we age, we lose muscle and it gets harder and harder to keep your power up. That said I would say about 15% is reasonable in 1 year. To up your FTP you need to do more power work and super hard maximum effort intervals of 30" to 2'. Then add in longer efforts of 10' to 20' to add endurance. Too many athletes try to raise their power by going longer, not harder.

[KathyG] I did more long stuff training for the IM. I'm almost 47 so I'm relatively old...this winter I'm doing lots of intervals...3x a week trying to raise my FTP on the trainer.

[Coach AJ] Kathy, you're NOT old, you're just hitting your prime! Intervals are the best way to raise the FTP. Too many athletes stop interval training over the winter. You need to keep in touch with your LT so that you don't go into shock when you start them in the spring. LT training is highly effective, so start slowly with shorter bouts and longer recoveries.

[KathyG] I love hard trainer rides...love to nail my power numbers. I think I'm weird as my power tends to be higher on the trainer than the outside.

[Coach AJ] The effort on the trainer is certainly different than outside. Usually it feels harder on the trainer to make X watts than it does on the road.

[KathyG] I find it easier to focus 100% on trainer and just work hard. I've been swimming 5 years doing tris and my technique and pace is still really BOP....I've tried various coaches, masters, I'm honestly amazingly frustrated...any ideas?

[Coach AJ] Swimming is about technique, so focus on that. Have you been videoed? It is amazing to see what you are actually doing in the water vs. what you think or feel you are doing. Concentrate on every stroke to nail your technique and when you feel it fading take a break or stop completely.

[KathyG] I have been taped. My issue I think is I can't feel the difference of doing it right or wrong...so how do I know if I'm practicing right?

[Coach AJ] That's tough. You have to work on your propreoception to truly feel the water. Try running your nails down your forearms to increase their sensitivity. If you can have someone on deck to watch that would work too.

[KathyG] That is a good idea. I have a lead on a coach who was a Div 1 swimmer who coaches a good kids team...she coaches Masters too.

[Coach AJ] Too many athletes hammer out yardage in the pool without regard to technique. Being slippery in the water will make you more efficient and faster. The key in tri swimming is to swim as fast as you can while keeping enough energy for the bike and run. When you swim masters, ask the coach to watch you and point out anything they see. If you can correct something instantly you won't do 100's of yards incorrectly.

[KathyG] I am on a swim break...a few months of no swimming. When I start I plan on doing private lessons with a Master's coach then go to Masters ideally with the same person pointing out what I need to work on...I swim like a barge.

[Coach AJ] That sounds like a good plan to me. Set your technique right and you will be swimming faster for sure.

[KathyG] I did a 1:48 IM swim...one of the slowest 30 at IMLP. But I made the cut off and got to finish.


[Coach AJ] The swim takes more out of you than most realize. There's no chance to take in calories or liquids. I love doing swim/bike bricks. Long brick sessions work great to dial in nutrition. Keep your breaks on the bike to 1 or 2, and really work the bike to simulate IM day. Having a nutrition plan is a MUST!

[chirunner134] Have you ever tried the Halo swim trainer?

[Coach AJ] Yes, I have a Halo and I highly recommend it. It's easy to set up, easy to use and very effective. You can do 10-20' and get a great workout in that will improve your technique and strength. They run about $400, get the Tempo Trainer rather than the metronome. I am doing a review right now and will have a video on the BT site soon!

[chirunner134] Should you try to do a couple of centuries when training for the IM?

[Coach AJ] Yes, absolutely. You want to cover the distance to know that you can and what it feels like. Plus you need to know what works best for you nutrition wise. After 1 or 2 I would add a short brick run of 15-30' to really simulate race day.

[KathyG] How would you suggest training for a 12 or 24 hour bike race in Feb given I live in MA and long rides outside may at most be 3-4 hours in winter?

[Coach AJ] Frequency! Since you won't be able to do super long rides, do 3-4 hour sessions on back to back days. Learning to ride and keep your form while fatigued will be key. You will also need to ride some at night to get used to that. Not sure how that will work in MA in the winter, but riding with a light is a lot different than riding in broad day light.

[LKN-Tri] Okay, sorry for asking if you have already answered. Compression wear, like socks, shirts etc. Does it work? Have you tried it?


[Coach AJ] YES!! I use it all the time. While I train, for recovery and long flights. I like the Skins stuff the best. Again, look for a review here in a short time!

[Ontherun] Coach, I am playing with the idea of an ultra run, how the heck do you figure out a pace?

[Coach AJ] That's a tough one! I've never done an Ultra, but I would start very conservatively! You will have to be flexible, so don't get set on 1 particular pace. I think going by feel would be your best approach.

[Coach AJ] Thanks for the good questions, this was a great chat. I'll see you all again next time!!!!


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date: October 29, 2008

Coach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

avatarCoach AJ

USAT Level 1 Coach
"My coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: listening and balance. By combining these two elements I feel I can help each athlete achieve their full potential."

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