Having entered a race are you feeling overwhelmed by the challenge? Or maybe you’ve challenged yourself in the past entering your first event such as a 10k or half marathon and found it particularly difficult to achieve? Have you ever reached a plateau and just can’t seem to get faster? By following these five steps I am confident you will be able accomplish your biggest goals quickly.
Step 1 – Planning
Planning your season or personal goals is often overlooked can be exciting; especially of you have set yourself an inspiring challenge. A good first step is to define success so that you can give yourself a pat on the back once you have achieved this. This will be a real morale booster.
In more depth you can set SMART targets. Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Time Bound targets will keep you focused and you will be able to measure success along the way. Give yourself smaller targets not just one big goal. Break an overwhelming challenge into smaller manageable chunks. Every journey begins with a first step, and if you build on your ability step-by-step, success after success, you will soon achieve great things. The beauty of endurance sports is the personal challenge that you set, which nobody else can take away from you. You define your own success!
Step 2 – Assessment
So you know where you are going, you’ve set your goal and keen to tackle your challenges. But how far exactly do you have to go on your journey to your perfect race? Have you just got a few seconds to shave off your 10km run to get a sub 40minutes? Or have you hit a milestone birthday, and having never run in your life entered a marathon? Two personal challenges, with very different journeys, but knowing either’s starting point will help.
Time-trials are the easiest fitness tests to perform and in my opinion specific to your sport. By going against the clock you will get a true picture of your ability on a certain day. You can repeat the same time-trial every 4 to 6 weeks and see progress, which will help keep you motivated and focused.Integrate time trials in your triathlon training program to monitor progress.
Keep your fitness tests specific to your discipline and ability, and adapt them as you improve. As well as speed and distance you can log your rating of perceived exertion (RPE/10), your heart rate, and your power on the bike. Remember fitness is an output – how fast can you go? Heart rate although useful is not ‘fitness’ and many factors can affect it.
Step 3 – Training
Specific adaptation to imposed demand (SAID) is the fundamental principle that should guide your training. So you’ve performed a fitness test, and you know you can run a solid 8minute mile pace for 6 miles. If your goal is to run a 7:30minute mile pace for 6 miles you need to make your training specific to that goal. You need to run at and over that pace.
Too often I speak to frustrated athletes who can’t get faster. They do lots of training and are committed to achieving the results, its just the sessions they perform are not specific to their goal. If your triathlon training program asks you to only ever run or cycle slowly, you will only ever get good at doing that.
So what is the most effective way to get fast in training? By training fast you will be able to race fast. Of course you can’t just expect to run your goal pace for the duration set immediately so the best method is interval training. This is the stop start method of training that allows you to go at or above your goal pace for a set period, with recovery intervals planned. An example would be 6x 2minute run at 10k goal pace, with 2minute recoveries.
The FITT principle is a good guide of the variables you can play with in terms of training. Frequency, Intensity, Time or duration and Type of exercise car all variables. In the 6x2minute session described it could be that you reduce your recovery intervals weekly (T) from 2 minutes to 90sec then 1min and so on until you are able to achieve the pace for your 10k with no rests.
With any training session specificity is key and you will do well to ask yourself ‘what do I want to achieve from this session?’
Step 4 – Nutrition
Nutrition is so important and my personal favourite part of health and fitness, and an important part of any triathlon training program. It is often overlooked or misunderstood though, and this is no surprise because there is so much conflicting information available.
As endurance athletes your focus should be on nutrient dense foods during your day. These foods include fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, poultry and fish. Considering nutrient density it is useful to look up the ORAC rating (antioxidant content) of foods. You might like to know dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, which are effective for combating free radicals. Free radicals are essentially like ‘rust’ for our body and are increased by pollutants, oxygen and exercise.
Sports nutrition can be used effectively during and within 15minutes after training or racing. In these times it is wise to consume high glycemic index foods such as sports bars and drinks. Keep these foods confined to these times however as this is when your body is most effective at using them. You are highly insulin sensitive around exercise sessions, and if you consume a diet high in sports nutrition in your sedentary day you will not be doing yourself any favours.
Step 5 – Race
So you have broken your triathlon training program into manageable chunks and you are confident in your ability to complete the race. However it is essential to execute your race properly otherwise you will struggle.
Plan your day, your journey and where you have to be. Are there transition bags for a triathlon or do you have to be in a certain pen at the run start?
Ensure all your equipment works. Gather it a week before your event and never try anything new on race day – always test it in training. Gather your entourage: friends, family, coach to help you and to carry things for you. Remove any stresses that are unnecessary and people love to help and get involved.
Stick to your plan. No matter what other people are doing around you stick to your plan. It is your race and you know what pace to go at. If others sprint off at the start don’t feel obliged to keep up. You will have a faster overall time if you keep to your limits and likely overtake others who set off to fast. This is particularly true in longer events.
I hope you found this useful and if you apply the five steps you are sure to get fitter swiftly. I have prepared a free fitness pack / triathlon training program you can claim at www.turbochargemyrace.com and if you would like more information about me you can read my blog at www.nsvtraining.com .