Category Archives: Periodization

MIT’s “Chemistry of Sports” online course using triathlon

In the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Chemistry of Sports course, they “… will be focusing on three sports, swimming, cycling and running. There will be two components to the seminar, a classroom and a laboratory. The classroom component will introduce the students to the chemistry of their own biological system. Since we are looking at swimming, running and cycling as our sample sports, we will apply the classroom knowledge to complete a triathlon.

With Course Goals

  • Apply the principles of chemistry to studying sports. These principles include: atomic and molecular interactions, thermodynamics, acid/base chemistry, bonding, electrochemistry
  • There will be weekly reading of scientific literature related to the topic of the week
  • Understand the chemistry of their own biological system through observations written in a training journal
  • Study the science of a triathlon (swim, bike, run) from molecular/chemical/biological point of view
  • Improve your own personal fitness level by training for the Mooseman triathlon (either Olympic distance or half-Ironman) and earn PE credit or by maintaining you own exercise program.”

All materials are in PDF format and it’s worth a read if you’re interested, like I am, in the science behind your training.

Click here for the MIT course.

How to recover after hard cardio

You’ve finished your long aerobic bout, you’re breathing hard, you’re thristy, and you know your body needs something to help recover?  What’s best for recovery after a hard aerobic bout?

The following except comes from Diets Designed for Athletes , reprinted here by permission of Human Kenetics.

“Recommendations on protein recovery products emphasize the importance of high-glycemic carbohydrates. Don’t forget that carbohydrates help make the most of the protein you ingest to aid recovery. Also note that protein affects the rate of absorption of carbohydrates you consume to aid your recovery after an endurance workout.

Protein’s main job may be to help you build and maintain muscles, but you need carbohydrates to fuel them. If you’ve

been running, cycling, or doing any intense cardiorespiratory exercise for more than an hour with your heart working at 60 to 80 percent of maximum, then your liver and muscle glycogen levels might be very low. During the sustained activity, as well as in the hour or two after the activity, a product that helps bring your glycogen levels up can serve you well. You also lose water and sodium during endurance activities, particularly if you do them in the heat, and you affect the balance of your other electrolytes: potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride.

There are two ways to address glycogen depletion, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance with performance-enhancing products: a specially formulated drink or a combination of water and a sports food. The first thing to note is that drinking something is always part of the process. Figure 3.1 highlights the importance by illustrating how dramatically performance diminishes with fluid loss.

If you use a sports drink during an event to aid recovery as you go, be sure it has a low carbohydrate concentration (around 6 percent). Ideally, it should have 14 to 19 grams of carbs per eight-ounce serving—6 to 8 percent. Anything with a carbohydrate concentration greater than 10 percent can be used as part of a carbohydrate loading program, but you want to stay away from high-carb products around race time, because they can cause diarrhea, nausea, or cramping. On the other end of the spectrum, a drink with a concentration of 5 percent or less won’t give you the boost you want.

Follow these broad guidelines on what to look for in sports drinks products and what to stay away from. First, don’t choose a drink that’s carbonated, contains a stimulant, or is full of refined sugar, like a cola drink or one of the clear, bubbly beverages that gives you a jolt from either caffeine or herbs. Second, remember that water alone isn’t enough to support your full recovery after an endurance workout or competition. These insights are based on research and on the experience of elite athletes interviewed for this book.

One piece of research (Brouns, Hawley, and Jeukendrup 1998) studied the effects of different rehydration drinks on competitive cyclists. After their workouts, some of the cyclists were given caffeinated soft drinks, others low-sodium mineral water, and others a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution—a sports drink. The athletes who drank the soft drinks and the mineral water showed a marked loss of every one of the electrolytes. Moreover, the athletes who consumed the soft drinks were at a further disadvantage, because the caffeine provoked urination; essentially, it dehydrated them even more. (Other stimulants, such as ephedra, have the same effect.) In contrast, the athletes who ingested the sports drinks were able to rehydrate and boost their sodium, magnesium, and calcium levels. The drink did not affect their potassium and chloride levels, however. (That deficit will be addressed separately.) The study concluded that drinking water or soda with caffeine after a workout results in a negative electrolyte balance. Consuming a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink with moderate amounts of sodium, magnesium, and calcium definitely helps an athlete recover.

Regarding the carbonation issue, consider that part of your body’s natural process of producing energy relies on the oxygen (O2) you breathe. A byproduct of the process is carbon dioxide (CO2). You don’t want a lot of carbon dioxide in your system because it’s poisonous to cells. It’s important to eliminate the excess, which you generally do through normal cardiovascular processes (blood flow and heart action) and respiratory processes (breathing). Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, however, demand more than normal functioning from the body. When you push hard aerobically for an extended period of time, you tax your body’s ability to eliminate excess carbon dioxide, and you face a potential CO2 buildup. As your body works to eliminate the extra CO2, don’t choose a recovery drink that’s carbonated—that is, a beverage made bubbly by the infusion of CO2 gas. Ironically, you will sometimes see beverage companies offering bubbly drinks during and after races. At the very least, dilute any carbonated beverage by adding an equal amount of water before your drink it. Otherwise, beware of the most obvious negative reaction: carbonation can cause stomach bloating. In short, you may feel lousy in addition to the beverage not providing the benefits you seek.

Carbohydrate recovery drinks include these options:

  • Powders you mix with water; the amount can be easily adjusted depending on your taste and on whether you consume the drink during or after the event
  • Premixed drinks with a prescribed concentration of carbohydrates and other nutrients and additives; in terms of both composition and packaging, these drinks are usually better suited for use after workouts.

There are other ways to view your drink options, too, particularly in light of the electrolyte discussion. They concern sodium, calcium, and other elements in the drink; herbs for different aspects of recovery; and patented (or patent-pending) formulas that distinguish one carbohydrate mix from another.

Research (Maughan and Shirreffs 1998) has shown that electrolyte loss is a personal matter. The optimum drink for you may be quite different from that of another athlete. This fact is one reason why some top trainers persistently believe that athletes don’t lose enough electrolytes in the first 90 minutes of intense aerobic exercise to require any recovery fluid except water. At the same time, there is widespread agreement that ingesting either carbohydrate drinks or water and a carbohydrate bar, for example, replenishes lost glycogen. The electrolyte research cited previously reflects current thinking that replenishing some of the electrolytes is not only desirable but also necessary for endurance athletes. Your individual metabolism, temperature, and level of exertion all influence the electrolyte loss, however, so the same drink with the same concentration of carbs and electrolytes won’t be ideal for every athlete or even for the same athlete under different conditions.

This variability is one of many reasons you should keep a log to help you refine your workout regimen and your choices of sports food. Pay attention to how you feel after a brutal cardiorespiratory workout, and adjust the amount of fluid you take in according to how you feel. Signs of electrolyte imbalance include fatigue, tremors, diarrhea, and nausea.

The following are electrolytes:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride

Generally speaking—and this is just a benchmark number—a good sodium level for a recovery drink is 100 to 110 milligrams for every eight ounces. Take a look at what’s out there: the sodium (Na) content in sports drinks ranges from around 10 milligrams to well over 100.

Research indicates that you don’t sweat out vitamins, so even though you should take vitamins to support your athletic goals, your recovery drink doesn’t need to include them.”

The Weeks Before a Triathlon Race

What do you in the couple of weeks before a race?  Taper?  Test out nutritional intake and timing?

If this is your first race, your mind is likely racing, pardon the pun.  If not your first race, your over your first time jitters and just want to have a better race, faster time, or move up in distance.

John Mora published Triathlon 101 for those new to the sport and those wishing to get an edge in their training and in their next race.  In this 2nd edition of Triathlon 101, you’ll find topics such as:

– Choose the best equipment for your goals, terrain, and budget.
– Create your own triathlon program for various distances and events.
– Know how, when, and what to eat and drink when training or competing.
– Prevent overtraining and recover from common injuries.
– Swim and navigate in open water.
– Smoothly and quickly transition from one leg of the

What do you in the couple of weeks before a race?  Taper?  Test out nutritional intake and timing?

If this is your first race, your mind is likely racing, pardon the pun.  If not your first race, your over your first time jitters and just want to have a better race, faster time, or move up in distance.

John Mora published Triathlon 101 for those new to the sport and those wishing to get an edge in their training and in their next race.  In this 2nd edition of Triathlon 101, you’ll find topics such as:

– Choose the best equipment for your goals, terrain, and budget.
– Create your own triathlon program for various distances and events.
– Know how, when, and what to eat and drink when training or competing.
– Prevent overtraining and recover from common injuries.
– Swim and navigate in open water.
– Smoothly and quickly transition from one leg of the race to the next.
– Taper your training for peak performance on race day.

With permission from Human Kenetics, below is an excerpt regarding, “What to Do in the Weeks Before a Race.”

“First things first: Congratulate yourself. You are a few weeks away from what might be one of the most rewarding efforts you’ll make in your life. You’ve made it this far, and you’re still standing (hopefully). Training for a triathlon, even for a sprint distance, is no small task. It takes commitment, self-discipline, and an unfaltering capacity for bearing with aches and pains.

You’ve made it through the scorching hot and humid summer runs when garden sprinklers were few and far between. You’ve weathered the chilly spring mornings on your bike, when you wished your helmet had a heater. You’ve tolerated inconsiderate toddlers invading your lap swimming lane. You’ve come a long way and are probably in better shape than 99 percent of the population. Take pride in your accomplishment. You’re ready to complete your first triathlon, up the distance, or go for a personal best. Whatever your goal, congratulate yourself on just getting to where you are now.

But don’t pat yourself on the back for too long. You’ve still got a few weeks to go. Even if your training hasn’t been perfect or you’ve overtrained a little, the next few weeks are the critical zone, a period where it’s essential that you pay attention to some vital details.

Complete Your Last Long Run

Running takes the greatest toll on your body, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to recover before your race. You should do your last long run, but not your longest, approximately 14 days before the race. Run a distance roughly equivalent to half of your longest previous run. Some triathletes run their longest run on this day, but elite runners have ideal muscle composition for running (predominantly slow-twitch fibers) that allow for quick recovery. The majority of triathletes require more time, so your longest run should be three to four weeks before race day.

Stick to the Tapering Schedule You’ve Set for Yourself

If you’ve been following the training advice in part II, tapering will already be built into your training calendar. Triathletes often find this phase of training the most mentally difficult to deal with. The thinking usually goes something like this: “I’ve been training hard. My body has adapted well. I’m in great shape for the big race. Why in the world would I want to let up?”

Believe it or not, if you’ve trained as hard as you think you have, your body has to recover from the cumulative distance you’ve put on your feet, legs, and arms. Although you might feel just fine, there are likely microscopic tears in your muscle tissue, tears that need a few weeks of easy training and a few rest days to completely heal.

If you have any doubts about the value of tapering and are itching to just ditch this part of your training plan, consider a little scientific evidence. A study at Malaspina College in British Columbia and the University of Alberta shows how necessary tapering is to triathletes. In the study, 25 athletes trained for an hour five days a week for six weeks at a high-intensity level of 75 to 85 percent (Mora 1993). After six weeks, seven athletes tapered for three days, cutting down on volume (not intensity), and a second group tapered for six days. A third group tapered by doing no exercise at all for four full days, and an unfortunate bunch in the fourth group exercised at the same intensity and volume until test day (equivalent to race day).

The results showed a 12 percent increase of the lactate threshold level in both the three-day and six-day taper groups. (For the purposes of this study, the lactate threshold is a measure of how long the athletes could maintain a certain exercise intensity before too much lactic acid, a waste byproduct of exercise, builds in the blood.) The no-exercise group made no improvement, and the train-to-death group decreased their lactate threshold level.

Glycogen levels were also measured. (Remember, your glycogen storage is like a fuel tank; the more glycogen you have, the longer you can go.) Glycogen storage levels soared by 25 percent with the six-day program. The three-day and the no-exercise groups showed an increase of 12 percent. Once again, the train-to-death group smelled of overtraining: Their glycogen levels dropped 12 percent.

“My focus was the cellular level, finding the physiological results of tapering. Of course, everybody wants to know about performance,” says J.P. Neary, PhD, who headed the study. “The results determine that a little extra rest helps cells work more efficiently during exercise.”

Neary emphasizes that tapering is subject to a host of variables specific to the individual and the training event. For example, a half-Ironman distance race requires longer, slower training than used in the study, and older athletes tend to require longer recovery times. Thus triathletes training for longer distances might do better with more tapering; older triathletes might also need more tapering. The point is to stick to the tapering suggestions and sample tapering charts presented in chapter 7. Don’t let the excitement of the pending drama or your impatience ruin your chances of having a great race.

Watch Your Diet

There are a few important areas to consider concerning your diet in the weeks preceding the big event:

    * If you’ve been following the recommended 65 to 70 percent carbohydrate diet for a triathlete, your pantry should be well-stocked with pasta, grains, fruits, and vegetables. (If not, do some shopping.)
    * Are you staying away from high-fat foods like cheese, whole milk, and butter? Make an effort to fine-tune your diet. If you haven’t been a good boy or girl, make a commitment to get your nutritional act together in the coming critical weeks. You’ve come too far to let diet stop you from being your very best. The key word here is fine-tune. Don’t make any last-minute drastic diet changes that will be hard on your body.
    * If you have a deficiency of protein in your diet, integrate some legumes, egg whites, and low-fat dairy products into your diet.
    * Are you keeping well hydrated? Make sure you drink 6 to 10 eight-ounce (240 mL) glasses of water a day.

Try Some Mental Training

You’ve come far in your physical training, but have you trained your mind with positive thoughts and visualization of the finish line? If not, devote some time to this important, but often overlooked, detail.

Begin to set aside 15 to 30 minutes every day in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Close your eyes and relax. Take deep, slow breaths, inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your nose. Visualize every phase of the race, from starting line to the glorious finish. See yourself relaxed and confident on the day of the race. You’re calm and cool within the hustle and bustle of the crowd. See as much detail as possible, and feel an eager anticipation to meet the challenge that awaits you. If you’re not used to meditating, visualizing might seem difficult at first. Persist, as you’ve done with your physical training.

Test Your Prerace Meal

The weeks before a race are a good time to experiment with your ideal prerace meal. Try eating a high-carbohydrate snack, such as a bagel and banana, 60 to 90 minutes before a moderate to long workout to ensure you don’t experience nausea. Another good prerace meal is an energy bar containing about 40 to 50 grams of carbohydrate with 8 ounces of water 60 to 90 minutes before the race. If you do experience nausea, your stomach might be sensitive. Try something else, or try timing your prerace meal so that you eat it as long as two hours before you start exercising.

Some sports products are specifically designed to be easily digestible, such as several of the products we covered in chapter 8. You might want to test out some of these as preevent meals during your training:

    * A carbohydrate loading and recovery drink
    * A balanced nutrition shake with plenty of carbohydrate, moderate protein, and low fat content
    * Carbohydrate gels and energy bars

Practice Your Transitions

Now is a good time to practice your swim-to-bike transition, known as T1 in tri-speak, and your bike-to-run transition, known as, you guessed it, T2.

Practice your T1 transitions on a beach. Set up a mock transition area at an open-water swim site and have somebody watch your stuff while you swim. Lay everything you’re going to need on a towel, just like you will do at the race transition area (I’ll give you a checklist later in this chapter). Don’t make this a long workout. Swim a short distance, practice getting out of your wetsuit (if you’ll be wearing one), change into your bike gear, and go for a short ride.

Practice your T2 transition on another day. Again, set up a mock transition area, but this time you can set it up on your doorstep. Go for a short bike ride, and then change into your running gear and go for a short run. Although you should have already done some brick workouts, these practices should help you make smooth transitions and get used to the gear and clothing (if any) changes. You should also decide how you want to approach the transitions. Essentially, there are two ways of transitioning: the fast way and the comfortable way.

The Fast Way

The fast way means racing in your swimsuit. The benefit is obvious: a quick transition. The drawbacks are also obvious: saddle soreness and, if it’s a cool day, goose bumps. As I’ve mentioned before, most competitive triathletes competing in sprint- or Olympic-distance triathlons choose to go this route. Riding in a swimsuit is tolerable for most people for these relatively short distances, and if you’ve wisely purchased a triathlon swimsuit with some padding, that will help as well.

The Comfortable Way

If you have personal reasons for not riding and running in your swimsuit or feel that bike shorts will make a big difference in terms of comfort, then by all means, take your time and slip them on over your swimsuit. (Most triathlons of shorter distances don’t have changing areas, and being naked in the transition area is cause for disqualification and possible arrest!) Feel free to stop and don cycling shorts, cycling jersey, and any other clothing that you feel will help you maintain comfort. Of course, all that extra dressing will add to your transition time. But if you’re just doing the triathlon to finish, who cares?

Whether you run with or without socks depends on how sensitive your feet are. Again, most triathletes forgo this for shorter distances, but that doesn’t mean you have to. An inexpensive and helpful item to make your running shoe transition quick are lace locks or similar quick-locking laces devices. These attach to your shoelaces and make tying your shoes as simple as tightening the laces and pulling down. They are surprisingly solid and dependable, tightening your laces as well as a double knot. Some specialty triathlon running shoes come with something like this built in, but if yours do not, consider it a low-cost, time-saving investment.

Unless you feel an insatiable need to show off your new duds, there’s really no need for running shorts. One exception may be if you’re wearing bulky cycling shorts, which may chafe your groin area and be a nuisance on the run. If that’s the case, go ahead and put on those running shorts over your swimsuit (most short- to medium-triathlon transition areas do not have a changing area, although ducking into a port-a-potty is always an option, albeit a nasally offensive one).”

IronMan not enough for you?

Most everyone has heard of the Iditarod – the famous 1100 dog mushing race from Anchorage to Nome Alaska.  I recently returned from Alaska where I learned of the “Iditarod Trail Invitational“, tagged the longest winter ultra race in the world.  You have two routes you can follow, a 350 mile and the original 1100 miler.  The main difference are the modes of transportation.  You can race on bike, snowshoe or on foot. And it’s held in March where you it can be 30 degrees below zero with blistering winds.  There are sometimes days between rest cabins or villages so you have to carry a sleeping bag and food with you.  Visit the website here to learn more about it and read some of the competitor’s blogs.

How about the “Great Divide Race” which follows the US Continental Divide for  2,490 miles of cycling?

How about a Deca IronMan with a 24 mile swim, 1120 mile bike and a
262 mile run
?  Here’s their website.

Having never attempted one but from what I can gather, finishing depends a great deal on your mental fortitude; how tired you feel, how exhausted you are, and how the cold and hot plays games with your mind.

Assuming a high level of fitness and training, part of these finishes might be determined by nutrition – have you practiced your nutritional in take on road and in all sorts of weather.  Which leads me to this excerpt reprinted with permission by Human Kinetics.  The book is “Endurance Sports Nutrition“, by Suzanne Girard Eberle.

“The biggest danger with multiday rides, runs, treks and tours, cycling classics, sports camps, and climbing expeditions is incomplete recovery—

you slowly become glycogen depleted as each day passes and thus become increasingly fatigued. You find yourself less and less able to respond quickly or maintain your desired pace, and mentally you find that your commitment and enthusiasm start to wane. (Of course, chronic fatigue can set in as early as day 2 or 3 if you haven’t trained adequately with long back-to-back efforts, but you can’t do anything about that now.)

When it comes to eating and drinking, think before, during, and after. Fuel up every day before you start with a carbohydrate-rich breakfast to maximize your glycogen stores. If you’ll be pushing the pace or racing (working at moderate to high intensity, above 60 percent of VO2max) you’ll need to eat and drink at the earlier end of your acceptable breakfast window to start out on an empty stomach and minimize digestive problems. Drink again as near the start time as you can or top off with an energy gel taken with water. If the day is going to be more of a long, slow effort, then it’s generally OK to eat closer to the start (say, two to three hours beforehand) and to include fattier foods that take longer to empty from your stomach and be digested.

During the event or race, you’ll need to drink regularly (every 15 to 20 minutes) and refuel (every 30 to 60 minutes) from the onset so that you consume at least 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Sports drinks are the rehydrating beverage of choice to replace fluid and electrolytes. Along with sports drinks, a safe approach is to rely on energy gels and well-tolerated carbohydrate snacks during faster-paced efforts. Be prepared with salty foods or electrolyte tablets to help keep pace with your sodium needs. On long, slow days, incorporate real food, especially for the mental boost that it provides.

The key is to drink and snack regularly as you go, keeping pace with the
calories that you’re expending. Unless you have a four-hour or longer break
planned, eating a large amount at any one time, such as a lunchtime meal or a meal during a rest stop, will divert blood away from working muscles when you resume exercising. You will feel lethargic and unresponsive and end the day lamenting how much harder the second half was.

When you’ve stopped moving for the day, your job is not done. You must
consciously take advantage of the carbohydrate window, particularly the first
15 minutes, to maximize the glycogen replenishment process (see chapter 4 for a review). Ingest a substantial amount of carbohydrate calories immediately— at least .5 grams of carbohydrate per pound (~1.0 grams per kilogram) of body weight. (Even better, take in .75 grams per pound.) Remember, these are carbohydrate calories, not just calories from anything, like beer, nacho chips, or a candy bar. A recovery drink or meal replacement beverage can make the job easier (see the chart in chapter 5), and a small amount of protein may help reduce muscle soreness.

Each evening eat a high-carbohydrate meal that includes a good source
of quality protein (for example, 20 to 30 grams as supplied by 3 to 4 ounces,
or 85 to 112 grams, of meat). If need be, eat another carbohydrate-rich snack before bedtime.

Weighing yourself (if feasible) before you begin and right afterward can be
very useful because you can quickly ascertain how well you are doing at meeting your fluid needs during the event or race. Over the next few hours, drink at least 2.5 cups of fluid for every pound (or 1.3 liters for every kilogram) that you are down. If you’re down more than a few pounds, adjust your drinking plan for subsequent efforts and pay attention to your sodium intake too. Losing weight from day to day (especially in events and races lasting longerthan three to five days) and having sore or “dead” legs that are struggling to respond are prime signs of chronic glycogen depletion. Your job is to stop the damage from occurring before it becomes too much to reverse by eating more (especially carbohydrate calories), taking more time to recover, or most likely some of both.”

Five training phases for triathlon success

It’s not often I can do this but the following is an excerpt from an upcoming book (currently only available as a pre-order), Triathlon 101 (Human Kinetics, due out March, 2009). In this updated edition reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, Triathlon 101, you’ll learn the five training phases for triathlon success.

“Training in phases, or cycles, has long been considered the best way to condition the body to the rigors of endurance exercise safely and effectively,” says Mora. “Each phase has a very specific High-Tech Cycling book coverobjective, and the workouts are thoughtfully designed to fulfill that objective.” Mora suggests beginners approach training in five phases:

Initiation phase.
Specifically for beginners, the initiation phase allows the body to learn a new activity never or rarely performed before. Depending on the level of experience, this phase could take up to three months. “This phase may try your patience because you’ll be learning at least one activity that you’ve never attempted before,” Mora notes. “It is a time for your body to adapt gradually to new activity and to overcome the inevitable discomforts that go with triathlon training.”

Base phase.
This phase creates a foundation of training with gradual, safe adaptation to a physical activity and consists mainly of long workouts done at a slow pace. According to Mora, the focus of this phase should be on gradual increases of the length of workouts of no more than 10 percent per week, a rule that is especially crucial for running and helps in avoiding common overtraining injuries. This phase can last from three to six months, depending on current conditioning, skills, and the distance being trained for.

Speed and technique phase.
This phase increases the pace you can maintain and the efficiency of your exercise. According to Mora, the speed and technique phase is for those who have already run a few races and would like to hone their skills. However, for those running a triathlon for the first time, Mora recommends dismissing any expectations of finishing in a certain time and instead focusing on simply finishing the race.

Race simulation phase.
This phase helps boost race-day confidence through completing workouts similar to those done on the day of the event. According to Mora, many first-time triathletes have questions about transitioning from one sport to the other and the transition’s effects on the body. Race training improves performance on race day and provides the confidence needed for race day. “Workouts known as bricks combine two sports in a single session and are instrumental to any racing success,” Mora explains. “If you complete workouts that simulate what you will be experiencing during a race, the shroud of mystery surrounding your upcoming first triathlon will soon begin to evaporate.”

Tapering phase.
Tapering involves a period of decreased activity in the days or weeks before an athletic event. According to Mora, tapering allows the body ample time to recover from the previous months of training and refresh the muscles in order to be primed for racing. “Although there is much debate about the ‘perfect’ tapering schedule, it really depends on how fast your body recovers from training, how long you’ve been training, and what you are training for,” Mora says. “And although there may be some disagreement about how to taper, experts do concur that you need to taper in order to perform your best.”

“Hailed as a must-read for triathlon rookies, Triathlon 101 covers all the steps necessary for triathlon training. The updated edition also offers new chapters on what to expect on race day, information on off-road triathlons, and information on recovering to compete again

Triathlon Brick Training

In this terrific excerpt reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, Championship Triathlon Training, you’ll learn some brick training techniques and strategies.

Combination Training
The bike–run transition is addressed first because it is much more difficult than the swim–bike transition and thus the most practiced. Often referred to by many longtime triathletes simply as bricks, combination bike–run training is more than simply following a bike ride with a run. In the modern application of the method, a variety of combinations of two or even all three sports are used in training, primarily to help the body adapt quickly to the stress resulting from rapid changes in movement patterns. When you stop doing one activity and begin doing another very soon afterward, your body must make adjustments in blood flow, nervous system regulation, and muscular tension. For example, while the majority of blood flow has been directed toward your upper body during the swim, it must be redirected to your legs for the bike ride. During the ride, you hold your back muscles in an elongated, flat position with tension. For the run, those muscles must rapidly readjust and shorten to hold you in a more upright posture.

Your leg muscles may have grown accustomed to a slower turnover pace (cadence) during an extended period of cycling at 80 to 90 rpm. In the run they will need to adjust quickly upward to a stride rate of 90 or more per minute. Your ability to make each of these basic physiological adjustments improves with training that is specific to the demands of transitioning between sports rapidly. It stands to reason that just as performance in each sport improves with better training, as you practice and train for the changeovers and related adjustments between the sports, they will go more smoothly too. By learning to make the physiological adjustments in training, you are also training to be more successful psychologically by building realistic self-talk and a positive mind-set regarding the same transitions in racing situations.

The modern approach to combination training for successful transitions uses short training bouts in each sport while focusing on moving through the transitions to the next sport at race speed. This allows for more transition-specific practice, and it creates better overall quality in the swimming, cycling, and running segments of the session. It also makes the training more varied and more interesting. For this approach you set up physical locations specifically for practicing transitioning and plan routes that make such transition practice convenient. Practice for efficiently switching from one sport to the next simply becomes part of the training process in a way that adds a unique element to multisport training and increases enjoyment.

As noted, in triathlon and duathlon for most athletes, the bike-to-run transition is the most demanding one. This is probably due to the relatively high levels of fatigue and dehydration that occur as the race progresses and the change from a relatively static and crouched position on the bike to an upright and dynamic one on the run. Thus the most commonly emphasized combination training element is the bike-to-run transition. However, at the elite amateur and professional levels, the swim-to-bike transition, while not as difficult, is still extremely important in keeping overall times down. At these levels of competition, the bike speed of the racers is very high, at times more than an average of 25 mph. Thus the need to stay close to the other competitors, even in nondrafting events, is critical for successful performance. Of course, in draft-legal elite racing, how you do in the swim–bike transition can completely make or break your race. Losing just a few seconds in the transition process can easily lead to riding on your own rather than in a pack. Losing the advantages of drafting usually means that you have to work much harder on the bike. That will often lead to an increased split time in cycling. Then you will have the same problem on the run because you will be more tired when you get to it than you would have been if you had been in a draft pack on the bike.

Transition-focused training sessions require more preparation to organize and conduct than typical one-sport workouts. Thus their use is emphasized for race-specific intensities and endurance along with course-specific preparation in order to get the most out of the training. You should use a generic training setting that is similar to most triathlon courses (rolling hills) or a race-specific practice course to prepare for specific events. Ideally this will include a closed loop for the bike and a loop or out-and-back course for the run. For the swimto-bike transition training, an available lake or outdoor pool with a nearby cycling loop is ideal. To do either one, you will need a safe place to leave your bicycle and other equipment in a transition zone.

A typical combination training session includes two to four repeats of cycling and running or swimming and cycling at a speed endurance effort. This level of effort is a little lower than full racing effort yet faster than typical aerobic training. It is also definable as a tempo-effort, comfortable-speed intensity, or a specific level of work that represents your current projected speed for approximately twice your race distance. In other words, if you project a 7-minute-per-mile pace for 10K and a 7:30-per-mile pace for the half marathon, you would run this kind of effort at a 7:30-per-mile pace. Essentially these are miniduathlons or triathlons done at just below race speed.

Before completing the target combination sets, you should do a full warmup for both sports and for all three when you are doing triple combinations. This should include all the elements of the warm-ups described in chapter 5, including a progressive warm-up in each sport followed by skill sets and a set of progressive alactate efforts.

You begin each bike-to-run work interval by running to the bike at race speed as if you had come out of the swim. After mounting the bike at full speed, you ride the bike segment at tempo effort as described previously. Then you move through the transition to the run at speed and complete the run at tempo effort. The same scenario would occur in a swim-to-bike session. You begin the swim at speed, ideally using a start method similar to what you will use racing, then exit the water and proceed through a transition at speed, followed by the mount and your bike segment at tempo effort. You should use any equipment (such as a wet suit) that you anticipate using in the racing environment.

By breaking this training session into multiple efforts in an interval format, you will improve your performance quality while overlearning the transition skills and physiological adjustment processes. The primary goal of this training is to achieve a total training effort somewhat in excess of race distance at a power output that is similar, although less, than race effort when preparing for Olympic or sprint-distance races. If you are going for a longer race, you may not be able to do the full race distance in training on a regular basis. Note that this training can also be done at aerobic intensities. A lower-intensity approach to combination training is useful during base training periods (when most training is in an aerobic range of intensity) as described in chapter 5. A cool-down for the session should include both cycling and running, or swimming and cycling, or all three depending on the number of individual sports involved. The typical training session follows:
45-minute cycling at progressive aerobic effort with 10 3 30-second single-leg
pedaling drill (see chapter 3) and 6 3 15-second alactates
15-minute run at progressive aerobic effort with 6 3 60-step butt kicks followed
by 6 3 15-second alactates
Main Set
3 3 9-mile (14 km) ride and 2.5-mile (4 km) run with transition at speed,
several minutes of recovery between each set
15-minute run cool-down
30-minute cycle cool-down

You can modify the length, number of repetitions, and targeted intensity of training to create various physiological effects yet retain the basic emphasis on combining sports. As noted, this type of training requires you to set up a transition area where you can leave the bike and other equipment while you run. Therefore, it becomes a great opportunity for a coached workout. A coach or helper can take splits, evaluate and provide feedback on transition skills, and take care of nutritional needs as well as provide security for equipment. For International Triathlon Union (ITU) racing (that is, draft-legal racing), training with a group adds specificity to the transition-practice environment. This focus could become the basis for a very enjoyable age-group training session as well. To reduce concerns about bike theft, in solo training you could use a trainer for the cycling and then do the run workout from home, although this option reduces transition specificity considerably. Some athletes bring a trainer to a track and do their bike–run combinations there so that their equipment stays
within easy view for security.