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Triathlon Tips: Increasing Training Volume

Are you hooked on triathlons?

If you’ve been training and racing for a while and are loving it, you may be feeling like it’s time to start increasing your training. Building up your volume can help you drop some time in your races or get ready for a new race distance.

It’s a good idea to make a training plan and be smart about adding volume.

You don’t want to do too much too soon and risk getting hurt. There’s a lot to consider for triathletes, since you need to balance your training in each of the three disciplines. Here are some guidelines you can follow so you can be your own coach and start to increase your training.

Planning Your Time

First, you want to assess how much training you’re currently doing. If you’ve been keeping a training log or tracking your workouts, it will be easier to look back at what you’ve been doing.

Look at the average hours per week you put in and how many hours or workouts you do in each discipline. Then think about how much more time you can to commit to training. You can think about how many hours per week or how many workouts per week you can do. If it’s much more than you’re doing right now, you’ll want to build up to it gradually.

Next, you need to divide up your time or workouts for each discipline.

Think about which disciplines you’re strongest in and which need more work. It’s easy to neglect the discipline you don’t like as much or aren’t as good at, but this is actually what you should spend more time on.

Here are a couple examples:

• Let’s say you decide you have time for nine workouts per week. If you were a competitive swimmer in the past but are a weaker runner, you might decide to do two swims, three bikes, and four runs per week. This way you can try to make big improvements in your running, slight improvements in your biking, and maintain your swimming.

• Or, maybe you’re a strong runner but feel that you need to work on your swimming and biking. You have time for eight workouts a week. You could do three swims, three bikes, and two runs.

Everyone has a different background, so your plan will be unique to you. Just make sure to do at least one workout of each!

Increasing Your Swimming Training

So, what should you do for each of these workouts? We’ll start with swimming.

Technique is very important in swimming, so if you don’t have a background in swimming, try to go to master’s swim practices or swim with someone who can help you with your stroke. You don’t want to increase your swimming too much if your stroke technique isn’t there yet, as you could end up with a shoulder injury.

As you work on your technique and start to make improvements, you can add in some more swimming. If you do have a swimming background but are just getting back into it, keep your intensity moderate for the first two weeks. After that, you can start doing some faster swimming.

Let’s say you decided to do two swims per week.

One can be an easier workout and one can be more intense. During the easier workout, work on any drills that you’ve been given to do. For the interval workout, start with a ten to twenty minute warm up. Then do a set of intervals for 20 minutes or more.

The interval set should include repeats of any distance from 25 to 125 yards, with 10 to 60 seconds rest between each repeat.

Some swimming interval examples are:

• 12 x 75 free@ 2:00 (So every two minutes, you push off the wall and swim 75 yards freestyle.)

• 10 x 50 free @ 2:00

• 3 x 100 free @ 2:30, 4 x 75 free @ 1:45, 5 x 50 free @ 1:30, 4 x 25 free @ :45

• 9 x 100 IM @ 2:30 (IM is individual medley: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.)

If you’re doing three swims per week, your third swim can be a steady, continuous swim.

It can be anywhere from 1000 to 3000 yards, depending on how much swimming you’re used to doing and the distance of the race you’re training for. You can mix it up with some kicking, pulling, or other strokes if you want.

If you’re swimming four times per week, add in another easy swim.

And if you can swim five times per week, add in another hard workout with intervals. This time make the intervals longer, like 150 to 400 yards, and take up to 30 seconds rest between each.

Increasing Your Running Training

If you’re running once or twice a week now and want to increase your running volume, start by only adding one run per week. This will help you avoid injury. This additional run could be about 30 minutes, or slightly shorter than the length of your average run.

You can also add strides to one of your runs. Strides are 30 to 60 seconds of running fast, but not sprinting or straining. They’re a good time to think about your form while adding just a little intensity.

Let’s say you want to build up to doing four runs per week.

After a couple weeks at two or three runs per week, add another easy 30 minute run. Once you get up to doing four runs per week, you can start making one of them your long run. If most of your runs are about 30 minutes, gradually increase one of them until it’s about 60 minutes for your long run.

If you were already running four or more times per week, you can gradually increase your distance and intensity. Do one long run, one interval workout, and two easy runs.

You can include some strides during one easy run if you want, but the run should still feel easy overall. Slowly increase your long run from 60 minutes to 90 minutes.

If you find you are getting sore knees or sore hips from running, you may be running with flat feet. It’s a worthy investment to get assessed by an podiatrist to prevent any long term injury.

Your interval workout can include repeats of anywhere from 200 meters to one mile.

Run these intervals at your race pace. So if you’re training for a sprint distance triathlon, run the intervals at the pace you can hold for a 5k run. Give yourself 30 seconds to three minutes of rest (which could be walking, slow jogging, or just resting) between each interval.

Some running interval examples are:

• 4 x 400 meters at race pace. Walk 100 meters easy between each.

• 6 x 300 meters at race pace. Walk 100 meters easy between each.

• 2 x 1200 meters at race pace. Jog 400 meters easy between.

• 3 x 1000 meters at race pace. Rest 30 seconds between each.

As you build up your interval workouts, think about increasing the total amount of fast running you’re doing in each workout. In the above examples, 4 x 400 meters is 1,600 meters total of fast running, and the next week you could do 6 x 300 meters for 1,800 meters total of fast running.

Increasing Your Cycling Training

If you’re biking once or twice a week now and want to start doing more, add one ride a week to start. Keep your rides easy for now and keep the distance the same as you’ve been doing.

You can add in high cadence intervals for one of your rides. This is a good ride to do on a trainer if you can’t get outside.

First, you’ll figure out what you normal cadence is.

how many times one of your legs goes around in one minute. Some bike computers can be set up to measure your cadence. If yours isn’t, you can just count your revolutions for a minute.

When you do high cadence intervals, ride at 15 to 20 revolutions per minute higher than normal for 30 seconds to two minutes. Ride easy between each interval. Try not to go over 120 revolutions per minute.
Once you’re used to cycling three times a week, you can make one ride a long ride and one a harder ride with intervals. Your long ride should be at moderate intensity. It shouldn’t feel too hard, but you do want to feel tired by the end.

If you normally ride for one hour, you could ride for 1:30 for your long ride, and gradually add time until it’s two to three hours long.

For your interval workout…

do repeats at your race pace. For a sprint distance triathlon, this would be the pace you can maintain for a 20k ride. Gradually increase the length of your intervals.

Some cycling interval are:

• 4 x 4:00 hard / 2:00 easy

• 10 x 2:00 hard / 1:00 easy

• 3 x 8:00 hard / 3:00 easy

If you’re doing four rides per week, add another easy to moderate ride.

This ride could also be part of a brick workout. A brick is cycling followed immediately by running. This is a good workout to do to get used to the feeling of running in a race.

Bricks are hard workouts, so only do a brick every one to two weeks, and keep both the bike and the run easy at first. After you’re using to doing bricks, you can start including some strides during the run to get used to running faster after biking.

Scheduling Your Week

Now that you’ve got an idea of the workouts you’ll be doing, you can decide how you’ll fit them all in to your weekly plan.

Scheduling your week can be tricky, since you need to balance the hard and easy workouts. Try to space out your hard workouts with easier days in between. And leave a few days between your long run and long ride. You’ll also need an easy day after doing a brick.

And make sure to actually go easy on your easy days, so you can go hard when it counts!


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