January 2009 Triathlon Training Chat with Coach AJ

author : Coach AJ
comments : 0

Discussions on the off season, maximum amount of days one should be running, heart-rate zone testing and outdoor off season strength workouts.

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[rkreuser] I've been dormant since may of last year (unemployed, stress), am up 20 lbs, and have crappy nutrition. But the weird part is...I haven't lost speed, just a little distance.  If I had about 2 solid weeks of base under me, I'd have a SLEW of questions for you. But I don't, so it's all about going slow to go fast.

[Coach AJ] The bright side is that when you do lose the extra pounds and get some rhythm you are going to fly. The extra weight might be helping with power on the bike, but holding you back on the run. Swimming is all about technique, so weight fluctuations won't be so noticeable.  Suppose you did have that base, could you think of where that would put you in terms of fitness? What do you change after those first 2 weeks? 

[rkreuser] First 2-3 weeks, it's all about consistency. Get out there, whether z1, 2, 3, whatever, doesn't matter. Just be comfortable, develop base and some routine. Lose a little weight.

[Coach AJ] I see it all the time with top athletes. They put on some weight, relax and recharge. Then having to carry some extra weight around makes them stronger, then faster when they lose it. That's the best answer for the first 2-3 weeks. It's not so much what you do, it's that you do SOMETHING every day, or 6 days a week. You don't have to pay a whole lot of attention to HR or power, more so to keep it aerobic, mostly zone 1-2 and just enough zone 3 so that you don't lose touch with LT efforts. Very simple and very effective.

[rkreuser] If I let my brain run things, I'd bet I'd do too much volume too early.

[Coach AJ] Volume is tricky. We all want to believe that we can build some massive base by cranking out huge miles, and some can. Many find that the body just shuts off, and we want to fight that off rather than accept it. Don't think in terms of overall volume, think about quality volume.

[rkreuser] For whatever reason, I can accommodate volume without injury. Not necessarily intensity....running a 4.5 hr marathon today? No problem. Running a few 6:30's today? Send an organ donor.

[Coach AJ] Most athletes are that way. Volume is fine, but intensity is when the body breaks down. That shows just how tough a hard LT or VO2 Max workout is on the body, and why you need plenty of recovery afterwords.

[rkreuser] So 2-3 weeks of consistency. Then 2-3 weeks of letting my body know something more intense is coming, but not whole hog. A little recovery, then after it. Does this sound kinda plausible?

[Coach AJ] Make sure to work in what I call micro recovery into the 2nd period where the intensity comes in. Try a hard 3 days, then 1 day off, 1 day ez, then more hard days. Don't get caught up in a 7 day a week calendar either. I've done 3 week blocks with a hard 8-10 days, 2-3 days of active recovery and off, the another 7-8 days of hard. It all depends on how your body responds. For some of my athletes this pattern was great, for others it did not work. Experiment.

[Writebrained] What is the max number of days you recommend running (without a day off)? Base period. Nothing too strenuous....

[Coach AJ] If you have a running history, try 5 to 6. The main factor to consider is simply avoidance of injury. For someone that is new to running, or has a history of injury, especially a recurring injury, than I would say 3-4. Also mix up your terrain, and certainly add in small amounts of zone 3 HR. Too many athletes just jog along, then come spring try to work on LT. Don't get carried away with it, but don't be afraid to do some surges, maybe 3-4 x 4-6 minutes.

[lastcall2003] So, I have a question about how to think about how to figure out my range for HR - whenever I run it goes sky high.

[Coach AJ] Have you done a basic HR run test?

[lastcall2003] No.  How do I go about doing one, sorry - very basic I know.

[Coach AJ] That's where you should start. There are several methods to do this, my favorite is a good warm up, then run 20' hard, but even. You don't want to start out flying, then slow to a walk. Go at a pace you think you can maintain. This is a very basic way to gauge your LT Threshold. From there you use Friel, or Coggan, or any number of HR zone calculators. If you have access to a lab that will do a run test for you do it, it is well worth the $$.

[rkreuser] Hey, AJ, what do you think of the CrossFit rage as it relates to triathlon?

[Coach AJ] OK, fill me in a bit on what exactly CrossFit is. I assume it's a cardio type of aerobic workout.

[rkreuser] Oooh, sorry, it's whole body conditioning, some weights, some cardio, some strength, very intense, with a ton of core and balance in it.

[Coach AJ] Well, I'm all for mixing it up in the off season. Again, this goes towards consistency rather than specificity. Right now any type of workout is good. I haven't been to a pool for quite some time and have been running and riding very little. But I've been in the weight room a lot, skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. It's a long season for most of us, mix it up now so you don't hate swim, bike and run in July.

[Coach AJ] Has any one else been doing some cross training, or something new for this winter?

[Rudedog55] I have been playing Racquetball, does that count??

[Writebrained] Love to ski! Alpine.

[gobluedds] Snowshoeing and dragging small children up a sled hill count?

[Coach AJ] Heck yeah, they ALL count. I love racquetball. I actually played tennis through my 2nd year of college. Snowshoeing is one hard sport. I did a 10k snowshoe race in Beaver Creek last Sunday and nearly died! I did the 10k and within 4 min. I thought about turning around. My legs hurt and my HR was skyhigh. I've never had my HR so high while walking! Snowshoeing absolutely counts!!!


The point is that strength workouts like snowshoeing, long hikes (I add weight to my pack), and even downhill skiing can be beneficial for triathletes. I've been skate skiing, backcountry skiing (lots of effort going up, lots of fun coming down), snowshoeing all over Colorado this year and I've never had so much fun, or felt so strong. I think a lot of triathlon is about strength, especially IM.

[Coach AJ] Has anyone here been hitting the weight room at all?

[gobluedds] Not enough.

[Coach AJ] Not enough, so only once a week, or just inconsistently?

[gobluedds] Inconsistently. Been devoting a lot of time to a running challenge. 100 runs in 100 days.

[Coach AJ] So, what is the benefit of 100/100?

[gobluedds] It gets me off my butt everyday....and I'm improving my run times by leaps and bounds.

[Coach AJ] Is there a time you have to hit for the run to count or can you just run for 5' and call it good? I do see the benefit in the consistency and getting you out the door, but I would be worried about injury, and a lack of specific structure.

[gobluedds] Minimum is 2 miles or 20 minutes. I usually do more than the minimums, but it's good to know they are there just in case it's not a good day.

[Coach AJ] Do you have a basic structure to the week or training period?

[gobluedds] You mean more than get up and do something? Mot really. I tried to start a training plan a while back, but found it to be way too easy and so I have been improvising.

[Coach AJ] Just a thought, but you might want to look at getting some type of structure to your runs. If you are going to be out there, why not make it as beneficial as possible? Depending on your goals, just doing something may not be enough. Remember, it's not how many hours or miles you train, it's what you do with those hours. If you could get more benefit from running 6 days a week, would you? I'm not trying to say what you should or shouldn't do, just make sure you think about the what and WHY.

[gobluedds] Thanks for the tip. I am very new to the sport though I have a background in both swimming and running, So I'll take all the advice I can get. Thanks.

[Coach AJ] Certainly. The key with any training plan is to make sure it is about your goals, your schedule and your time. Don't waste your time making your log book look good. No one gets to take off a minute from their race time because they put in X amount of hours. Efficiency, productivity and results are what matters. I've made these mistakes myself.

[Rudedog55] So if you ran 3-4 times a week, typically 5k distance, would you split that up to shorter harder runs, and longer slower runs??

[Coach AJ] Yes, split it up. There will be no progress by running the same route, the same time or the same intensity. Add in some surges or hills, it doesn't have to be much, but mix it up.


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date: January 27, 2009

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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