Don't fall in the habit of blindly downloading your workouts from your training plan onto your fitness tracker/watch. I know we all like to open up our training plan software and see the workout we are sypposed to do, then just go out and do it. Don't do that. Take a look at the workout that is provided and understand what we your coach or training plan is trying to accomplish with the workout. That is, understand the "Spirit" of the workout and execute against taht. The problem that not understanding what you are doing is that it causes you follow it to the letter; therefore, if you are feeling a little off, you'll quit early or, if you are feeling great, you'll not get the full advantage of it by going beyond. If you do that, you'll start to understand what a given workout is trying to accomplish which will only make you a better racer!
#15 Bike Advice:
Seldom are exhausting Interval workouts something that athletes gleefully look forward to doing. However, once you get going and when you are done, you feel like you conquered the planet. The best way I have found to execute them is to essentially sandbag the first interval so that you got something to build on for each subsequent one. The bottom line is that if you want to become a good cyclist, you need to suffer when training as "suffering" creates that "ferocity" which allows you to attack the bike course.
I wrote an article that goes into how to leverage power measured on your fitness tracker or bike computer so you can actually see real-time what you are doing -- https://www.bye-beastcoaching.com/post/you-got-1-hour-to-workout-weather-is-awful-but-you-got-a-power-meter-and-a-smart-trainer
Get the focus on the "Start Line" rather than the "Finish Line" and into the "It's about racing mindset."
One of the big things I work on with the Wolfpack is the idea of being ready for race-day and putting the work in so that when you're standing at that Start Line you aren't worried about crossing the Finish Line you are excited to attack the course and leverage all of that training to put your very best effort out there and set a Personal Record or snag a Podium. In this way, the focus goes from negative thoughts on whether or not you'll make it to the finish line, it will be how quickly you get there.
This time of year is key to preparing yourself with consistent training so that when the quality training starts, your body is ready to absorb it. When you flip the switch, for the first 2 weeks, get into a consistent daily training mode. Just do anything, daily, for 30-60 minutes. The "what" is not as important as the "do"; for example, easy aerobic trainer or outdoor rides, hitting the pool so some aerobic swims, two-to-five mile runs where you don't look at your watch, yoga/mobility and/or strength work. Whatever you are motivated to do is what you do.
For the next two weeks, do the Noah's Ark approach where you do two swims, two bikes, and two runs but, in this case, add some focused intensity for 20-30% of the workout; then, on the 7th day, hit the gym for the mobility and strength work.
Finally, your last phase is jumping into a week-long training block where you hit, what you feel is, your weak area hard. For running or biking, simply have two, three-day efforts where you do hills one day, intervals the next, and a longer endurance set (again with 20-30% intensity baked in). For swimming, my favorite is to incorporate a shark week into the mix and get that "Feel" for the water.
Once you've reignited the spark for Training, it's time to get after the quality work so that when you step on the Start Line, you can look around and the folks next to you and have that realization that you are not like so many folks who haven't trained adequately, but of that small group that are ready to get after it and have some fun!
Relentless Forward Motion!
Let the fact that your Treadmill doesn't calibrate correctly with your Fitness Tracker (i.e., Watch) go.
I get it that you want "full credit" for your effort and you don't want your Coach and/or Strava followers to think that your normal 7:30 pace was a 9:00 pace, but it doesn't matter. What is important is that you do the prescribed work on the Treadmill and assume that the Treadmill numbers are correct. More important to getting successful tread work is that if you use the same Treadmill and you are seeing your average pace after each workout getting quicker, you are doing something right.
So, stick with it and don't obsess about it!
Relentless Forward Motion
Do your best to keep your trainer bike as clean as possible. When riding indoors, you will inevitably sweat and spill your sugary drink on your bike. As your note moving, your sweat will drop right on to your bike and will be corrosive (especially with the bolts) if you don't protect your bike and clean your bike afterwords. Therefore, at a minimum be sure to have a towel over your handle bars and one the floor under your frame; and, don't forget after riding to get a little bit of soap and water and clean it up. Also, we often forget to put lube on your chain so be sure to have everything you need to do some basic prep and cleanup in your pain cave.
Pick a Television Series you have been wanting to watch, but only watch it when you are on the Indoor Trainer.
Consistent Spin volume on your bike is tremendously valuable as it is an easy way to drive performance via Frequency and Consistency.
A long time ago, in the 1900's as Zach says, when Chris and I lived in Chicago, Chris, being new to racing, found herself as a middle of the pack biker and decided to, for the off-season, buy a Compu-Trainer. That winter, she sat in the garage listening to one of the few CD's she owned -- Jimmy Eat World -- and rode her Avatar around in the Racermate world. Her gains that winter were unbelievable as she came out as not only having the fastest splits in her age group, but tops in the entire field!
So, to entice you to get additional Cycling time in, find a Series that you have been wanting to watch and only watch it ONLY when you are riding the Trainer. I got into "Walking Dead" during the Pre-Season years ago, "Homeland" was awesome, and, more recently "Lucifer" ended up being pretty fun to watch. "Yellowstone" or "Game of Thrones" are good suggestions. Any others recommendations? Let's Ride!!
Don't have the same day of the week scheduled as a day-off each week. In fact, have something on your Training Plan every single day.
It's a common practice to have Monday's scheduled as the day-off for an athlete. As many of us have our big efforts on weekends, it would follow that Monday was then a Rest Day. Don't do that. Have something scheduled every day and when you need a day off or two due to work travel, illness, family responsibilities, or you are just plain worn down, take the day then.
The reasoning behind this is that, so often, when you have a scheduled day off and then something pops up as a conflict (which is almost always once a week anyway), you end up having two-or-three missed workouts. Success in Age Group racing is driven by frequency and consistency. And, remember, a workout doesn't have to be a swim, bike, or a run. Your "Rest" day could be a solid Yoga or Stretching Session or a Strength Day in the gym or Power Pilates session (or whatever the new "fitness du jour" name is). As an example, I joined the local F-45 (Arvada Ridge in Colorado) which I hit once every couple of weeks to just do something different as an alternative to my prescribed workout in my Training Plan.
It's about using your Coach or your Training Plan as a guide and adapting to what works with your schedule, your needs, and how you feel. Knowing what your body is telling you is a key.
Join a local Tri-Club. In fact, join a Master's group, join a bike group, and join a running group. The reality is that swimming with swimmers, biking with bikers, and running with runners will not only make you faster, it will help you integrate into the broader athletic community wherever you live and will increase the enjoyment of this lifestyle.
When we moved to New Jersey from Chicago in 2003, we did not know anyone outside of work. Thanks to a random encounter at Spin Class, was introduced to a bike group and, as I wasn't much of a biker at the time, it took months before I got the courage up to go on a ride. When I finally did, I found folks on the ride who were just like me and slowly got into a rhythm with it. Overtime I found some runners to run with and then a Master's swim group, and, from there, I co-founded a local tri-club, MAPSO.
Then, after 20 years, we moved to Colorado. Again, we knew no one. Back to square one. So, joined Rocky Mtn Tri Club (where I'm now a Volunteer Coach), Team Evergreen Bike Club (where I'm now a Ride Ambassador), and joined Boulder Aquatic Master's where I get absolutely crushed by my 60+ lady friends who are in my lane. And, the Team I coach, The Wolfpack who are spread all over the country have all gotten to know and encourage each other, yet many have never actually met outside an Avatar on Zwift, at best. :)
That part of it, finding like-minded people who are also chasing fitness goals can really add a whole additional level of enjoyment!
Swim frequency trumps volume. Unless you swam on a team in high school or one of those rare adult onset swim affliction people , swimming is the most technically frustrating of all the disciplines and marginal improvements take a lot of work. "Yay, I knocked two seconds off my hundred interval!"With that said, you'll often hear people talk about "getting a feel for the water" and that "feel" generally comes from folks working to get to the pool and swim every day for a period of time. You don't need these to be huge volume sessions, but just 1K to 2K swim sets to help you get back into the rhythm. I often will prescribe "Shark Weeks"; i.e., daily swim workouts, for folks early season who are in need of getting back into the water. Nearly every time when they come out the other side, they say that "I feel so much water in the water and I like swimming again". I believe that your body works on its own to be more efficient in the water through repetition and you will see improvement. At that point where you have gotten the "frequency bonus", it then makes sense to have someone look at your stroke to see if they can identify some easy fixes.
Don't use ERG mode when on the Bike Trainer. I have never liked ERG mode when training, especially early season, for the reason that I think it puts folks in a position where they give up as they can't hit the prescribed wattage targets or are too easy and you end up "wasting" a workout because it is too easy. Early season is always challenging as you are basically starting over and it is hard to mentally manage what your FTP is currently vs what it was at peak season. I prefer that folks crescendo their effort throughout the workout. As an example, say you have a 3x6 minute interval workout (i.e., 6 min ON / 6 min OFF), you would do your first interval at a manageable wattage effort (well below target), then your next interval slightly higher, then your third is the one you crush. Over time, so far as you are consistent, with each subsequent interval workout, you'll find that you'll tighten the delta between your normalized power for first and the last and your overall FTP will start to move up pretty quickly. Then it gets really fun! :)
You can find my rant about ERG -- ERG is the Devil
The first quarter of the year is an excellent time to jump into open running races. I've always been a big advocate of having something on the Calendar every 4-6 weeks so you have something on the horizon to focus on. Half-Marathons, if you are doing Long or Ultra Distance, and 10Ks/5Ks, if your focused on Olympics and Sprints, are valuable as they can serve as a supported long run, an opportunity to pop in some intervals, and, as it's a race, there's always that internal drive where you either won't let someone pass you or are trying to chase some random person down to beat them across the finish line; therefore, you work a little bit harder.
Day 5 Strength/Mobility Advice:
In the morning, set aside 15 minutes for mobility work to loosen up your body. With all the strain we put on our bodies through training, we often forget the added benefit of being more flexible and a bit stronger.
The inclusion of mobility and strength for that matter always seems to immediately focus on an injury prevention benefit. Now that's certainly part of it, but the progressive gains in arms, core, and leg strength will definitely be noticed in how you feel in the pool during the catch-phase especially and, when on the bike, you'll notice that those hip openers allow you to get a little bit more aero and stay there longer and when you hit the hills, that leg work comes to life.
So, figure out a 15 minute routine in conjunction with your physical therapist, draw up your own based upon past experience, or hop on YouTube for some ideas. The Wolfpack and I use RJ Boergers book -- Finish Strong: Resistance Training for Endurance Athletes -- as an in depth guide on not just what to do, but the reasoning behind it and I, personally, always recommend Peloton as they have endless mobility, strength, yoga, etc... workouts that can guide you through a hazy morning.
Relentless Forward Motion
It is really easy to forego workouts due to poor planning around when you are going to do them and the amount of time you need to set aside for them.
Therefore, sit down on Sunday and look at your workouts for the week. Whether they come from your coach, an online plan you bought, or self-designed, block the time on your calendar like you would a scheduled meeting. Include the necessary prep time and/or the to and fro travel time if you have to drive or ride somewhere to start.
Further, if you can be consistent with when you'd workout, look out further on your calendar and protect your workouts with time blocks.
This may seem like a silly convention, but, prior to doing this, countless times, I missed out on workouts as someone popped something on my calendar when I was planning to workout.
Relentless Forward Motion
Now that your DRAFT Calendar is in place, call up your frienemies and buddies and convince them to come race with you. If all works out, it has several benefits.
1) Gives you someone to look forward to seeing or coordinating lodging and/or meals with.
2) If they're local, someone to train with, which is especially useful if it is a bit chilly and you are readying for a Spring race
3) If they are an age group frienemy of yours, someone to stalk on Strava and give you a little kick in the morning to get out of bed and get after it.
Stories (Note: I have a bunch of these, but here's a couple)
in 2018, my age group frienemy in New Jersey reached out and asked me if I'd come race with him at his comeback race in a California IronMan the following spring. It was a comeback for him, as he'd crashed out at a race in the fall resulting in badly broken ribs which abruptly ended his season and left him unable to race in Kona. At the time, I never considered that race as an option, but there I was on the Start Line which resulted in my best iron distance performance ever.
In 2023, my age group frienemy in Colorado told me about the Aquabike National Championships in Florida in December. I have never raced an aquabike before, but agreed. We had an absolute blast training up for it on some crazy-fast TT bike rides and on race day, had all kinds of fun trying to chase him down on the bike course (he beat me though :( ).
Put together a full DRAFT 2024 Season Calendar that includes all your Races and Events. I am a big believer in having a race or event on the horizon every 4-6 weeks so you have something to focus on. For example, using a half-marathon as a supported long run or a local small triathlon as a practice race prior to your main race can really help you get your arms around silly mistakes or mechanical problems you haven't considered.
I know the Fall of 2024 is far off, but try to put the full calendar together. If you have something that is a maybe, just mark it with a "?" until you decide what you are going to do.
Pick a 2024 Season Theme Song. Before every race, I play my theme song for the year. Something up tempo that I can play back in my head, especially, throughout the swim!
It also can serve to get you out of bed on a tough wake-up morning and, when a big interval is coming, the pump-you-up final push!