Why do Training Weeks Look Like That?

September 16, 2016


Recently we went over an 8 week training session to prepare you for an aggressive sprint race.  Let's take a close look at one of those weeks and breakdown how the week builds you and why the days are set up the way they are.  The intent is for you to understand some basic training theory so you can make choices on your own when the week doesn't go the way you'd like and also so you can create your own training plans.  Although we do focus on the sprint distance the theory discussed is applicable to all other distances.

Let's choose the first week in our BASE phase, the period during which we establish a training endurance base as well as establish infrastructure strength (connective tissue, core, bone density, muscle.)  You'll note that the following weeks, even those in other phases, don't deviate much as training theory has a uniform basis in progressive build or what is understood about progressive endurance build for our aerobic and energy usage systems i.e. we can only increase ability slowly and through recovery.

Looking at this week you probably thought, "Damn, that's a lot for a sprint race."  Yes, yes it is.  The intent is to not complete a sprint but to excel at it.  That and the triathlon sprint distance is a serious level of effort.  So we need to not only build strength and the beginning of power but endurance and speed as well.

- Monday: Strength Training: 4 x 12 pushups, 4 x 25 bicycle crunches, 4 x 8 burpees or 4 x 20 non-weighted squats.
Monday is a great day to go for strength.  Usually we are stressed the most on this day and we drive our schedules the hardest which sometimes leaves the minimum for Joe and Jane athlete.  Concentrated strength training of the kind described here requires no equipment and can be done anywhere including your desk or the parking lot.  It was once said that if you can do 100 pushups and then 100 sit-ups that you can do anything - almost true enough.  Pushups work every arm muscle including the connective tissue in your , wrists, your chest and the upper back.  Do them right and you're doing planks requiring you to build a hard core (lower back and abdomen.)  Bicycle crunches force the lower abdomen, hips, gluten, and leg muscles into joint development.  Burpees or non-weighted squats stress the connective tissue at the knees, hips, and arms while building hamstrings and to a lesser extent quads.  Both force stability development in the lower leg.  Three exercises and if you them right and to the reps and sets detailed will build an infrastructure that is less injury prone and can deliver power in swim-bike-run.  And yes, you're going to hurt so good on Tuesday.

- Tuesday: Run 3.5 miles at EZ pace HRM 2. Swim: 50 Yds. swim buoy, 50 Yds.free swim and alternate for a total of 500 yards. 
Running is the hardest exercise there is.  Repeat, running is the hardest exercise there is.  It is brutal on your infrastructure and your aerobic and energy usage systems.  Brutal.  In triathlon we say "it pays the rent."  When you can't bike or swim you run.  In our plan you run on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Sunday (but Saturday works well too) so that you can have a day of recovery in between.  Damn right your legs will be sore from Monday but running can help them recover as running will drive blood flow and increase "muscle rebuild" if you go easy.  With some exception it is always critical that you have a non-running day between runs so that your legs and body can recover and re-establish the new parameters it is working with.  Without getting too deep in a topic we'll discuss later, The Energy Depletion Model, requires time for the development of the energy systems we use.  To put it simplistically if you continue to deplete you will in fact damage rather than develop.  This goes both for muscle development and energy usage systems.  Connective tissue will simply fail and that kids is very hard to come back from.  The swim is perfect for that post Monday workout as it is the least stressful to you but at the same time requires an aerobic component.  Swim is all about technique so we recommend during Base alternating the use of a pull-buoys to get you accustomed to the wetsuit effect (and also that during the swim resting your legs can help strengthen your cycle.)  Depending on the type of swim training instituted you can literally swim every day!

- Wednesday: Brick - Cycle 6 miles followed by 15 minute run with less than a 10 minute transition.  Cycle at HRM 2 - 3, Run at EZ pace. 
By Wednesday you've fully recovered from your strength training and you probably still feel the run a little: perfect day to go biking!  We're in the BASE phase so we're all about the distance and that's about it.  Cycling is that odd mix of the swim and run: technique and hammering out the distance.  The addition of the short run afterwards helps you adjust mentally (and some would say physically) to the transition.  We like "bricks" because it forces you to mentally admit you're doing a triathlon.  Right now transition doesn't mean much so you're not practicing a transition.  Get on the run within a 10 minute span and you'll feel the "rewards" of looking like a hamstrung pot bellied pig limping through his slop.  Keep the run light as the intent is not to build on your previous days run.  When can you do "bricks"?  Any time you do a bike or a run.  One of the best run recovery techniques is to cycle afterwards and help blood flow through the lower legs.  Who invented the brick?  Why is it called a brick?  No one knows and there are twenty "true" stories out there for every false one.  Google "triathlon brick" and you'll see what I mean.

- Thursday: Run 3.5 miles at EZ pace HRM 2. Swim: Timed 500 Yard swim after 50 yard warm-up.  Going for love of effort not best. (Yes, love, learn to go hard.)  Strength Training: 4 x 12 pushups, 4 x 25 bicycle crunches, 4 x 8 burpees or 4 x 20 non-weighted crunches.
We're re-living Tuesday but a little harder.  Again we're interested only in your sweat and not much else.  By Thursday your body is figuring out, "Hey, this schmuck is serious."  (It really is thinking like that.)  And you'll note by the second week of your BASE training that sleep may be deeper and that your appetite is changing.  No, you're not just tempted to eat everything in sight but that you have cravings.  Pay attention to what you're craving as it may indicate you're deficient.  Here, we're following the rule of separating runs by a day of "rest" and building infrastructure through strength training.  And here is where we say Strength Training will go away as the season progresses as your swim-cycle-run take over the strength building and weight lifting will now only serve to stress tired and fatigued joints and connective tissue.  It varies for each distance of the disciplines only sprint and olympic can keep the strength training the longest.  A 140.6 athlete really doesn't need to do strength training when they have weeks of 200+ miles to log - I mean really - what is not getting worked out in a brick of 50 mile cycle and 6 mile runs?

- Friday: Rest
You have to build in a full day of rest if for no other reason that your current amore' doesn't run off and hook-up with a bowler.  Go see a movie.  Party.  God made you a sprinter and along with that comes so many good graces.  Rest days for 140.6 athletes means thats the day they get they can do the 1 mile swim with adding the bike ride afterwards.  Does it have to be on a Friday?  Nope.  It can actually be any day but make it a full 24.

- Saturday: 500 Yard Swim, 8 Mile Ride @ HRM 2 - 3
In this first BASE week the swim is short but the ride is approaching race distance.  If you can get both in that's great.  If not separate over the weekend.  Now during the week you'll note you focused on short distance and as the training progresses it'll progressively become about delivering speed and power.  On the weekends its about building endurance.  And now the skies part and Morgan Freeman's voice saith to you triathlete, "Thou shalt now train for speed and endurance at the same time."  So if you're out there on your 8 mile ride trying to hammer at 20 mph when you've never done the distance or speed well we have another kind of plan for you called, "Injury Recovery".  So why is that?  When we start discussing Physiology of Training we'll get to it.  In the mean time you don't have enough coffee for me to explain.

- Sunday: 3 Mile Run
"But I just said the weekend is about building endurance and here I am just doing a 3 miler."  Yup.  As this is the first week of BASE you're just being asked to mail in a nice 3 miler.  But because you're building that 3 mies begins to increase weekly.  Besides you have strength training the next day and right now infrastructure is more important.

OK, I've gone about as far as I can go without talking science and next week we're going to have only one section for everyone: The Energy Depletion Model after which you may be either really bored or have an aha moment.

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