Triathlon training - Progression over time is ‘the narrowing bridge’

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Triathlon training - Progression over time is ‘the narrowing bridge’

How I like to explain a clients progression journey through the sport of Triathlon is like crossing a bridge. 
At the start the bridge is wide, there is a low chance of falling off or falling down. Otherwise put; when a person first starts off in the sport of Triathlon there is a lot of easy wins and potential to get fast improvements. For at least 2-3 years simply by following a structured training program, working on glaring weaknesses and being consistent, will ensure that athlete improves. Because of the relatively low training volumes, a beginner can recover easily between sessions. This means it is unlikely they will get injured. Keys early on to address and get right to stay on the bridge are thing like:
  • doing additional strength and conditioning work
  • Addressing running posture and form
  • Getting a bike fit done
  • See a physiotherapist to identify weakness areas.
The above are all all preventative measures, and by eliminating these risks it’s likely an athlete will put together several seasons of injury free buildups and PB’s!
As the athlete continues in the sport the training load can become significant! For the very best in the world, training loads and intensities can get to the point of testing human capabilities. For example, if we look at a heavy training day of Jan Frodeno recent 70.3 World champion winner:
5.30am - Swim
A key base set would look like -  20x100m leaving on 1.20 - targeting a per 100m time of 1.12
Harder speed sets would be - 4x400m leaving on 5min, 4x200m leaving on 2.30min, 4x100m leaving on 1.15min.
The typical swim session length would be 5.7km with a large swim week of over 40km in the pool.
10.20am - Run
10km warm up run, drills and technique
Transitioning the body to running and being on land, the focus is on technique and to ensure leg-speed is maintained.
Large running weeks can range from 130km-160km per week in an active training block
3.30pm - Bike
2hour easy spin over rolling hills (approx 60km) The goal of this ride is to warm up for the evenings track run.   
In large training blocks cycling can get well up to 750km on the bike!
6.15 - Run (off the bike, known as a brick)
Running directly off the bike is essential for triathletes as it is sport specific.   Strength is relatively more important that out-out speed
To start running 2x2km hill repeats up tempo, with a jog down the hill for active rest.  The run continues to the track.
20x400m on the track with a 200m jog between repeats as active rest.  The track session is at 'race pace' clocking through in 69 seconds per 400m repeat and 1min per 200m recovery.
Of course when athletes are backing up training load like this the risk of damage to the body becomes greater and greater. Like walking a tightrope, any slight miss judgement from the athlete will lead to sickness, injury or overall state of fatigue. Again referencing Frodeno a week post the 70.3 win:
The key to continuing to stay on the bridge is constant reflection, adjustments and refinements. Sometimes as in the above example the boundaries will be pushed.  It is important to always process, and in this pursuit of excellence the path is very narrow.
Everything eventually matters - so the earlier the athlete can nail key learnings the quicker their trajectory to maximal performance and the less likelihood of falling ‘off the bridge’.

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