Here’s what a lot of you are looking for, a basis from which you can build your own triathlon training plan. You probably have questions like; How long do I base train?, At what point do I start to taper before a race?, When should I add speed work? You’ll find many answers in Triathlon 101-2nd Edition, reprinted here by permission of Human Kenetics.
“Setting up your triathlon training calendar and log can be the two most important actions you take, perhaps more important than any swim intervals, long rides, or morning runs you do.
Your Triathlon Training Calendar
Your training calendar can be a preprinted calendar, a poster board, an appointment book, or a calendar software program that prints out customized monthly grids. Just make sure that you have enough room to write down your daily workouts. Your training calendar should also be on paper, as opposed to just on a computer screen. Although a software program is great for creating customized calendars, make sure it can print out monthly grids. You want your training calendar to be within plain sight, not hidden away somewhere on a computer hard drive. Dedicate a space for your calendar—someplace that you know you’ll see every day. Once you’ve chosen your calendar and picked a place to put it, it’s time to make the commitment and put pen to calendar (scary, huh?).
Work Your Way Back From Race Day
First, write your race goal on your training calendar. How much time does that give you to train properly? Again, take into account your current fitness level and skills. If you need to reassess your race goal and set your target on something more realistic, now is the time to do it.
Divide Your Calendar Into Phases
Although part II covers training in much more detail, you’ll need to know a little bit about what experts consider to be the optimal way to train. Training in phases or cycles has long been considered the best way to condition the body to the rigors of endurance exercise. Each phase has a specific objective, and the workouts fulfill that objective.
Coaches and fitness experts don’t always agree on the exact number of phases and objectives (largely because training differs among sports and elite athletes require more complex training plans). However, if you are a multisport novice or future triathlete looking for your first finish-line crossing, you should integrate some basic phases into your training calendar. Following is a brief description of each of these phases.
If you think you have a good handle on how much time you need to devote to each phase after reading this section, plan your training calendar accordingly. If you’re super organized, you might even want to use color highlighters to block off phases, using a different color for each one. Don’t worry about writing down specific workouts; that comes later. For now, just get familiar with the phases, objectives, and estimated time frames.
Initiation Phase (Beginners Only)
Objective: Learn a new activity never or rarely performed before.
Estimated time: Depends on level of inexperience. If you are learning to swim the front crawl, this phase can take three months or more.
Objective: Create a foundation of training with gradual, safe adaptation to a physical activity.
Estimated time: Three to six months, depending on current conditioning, skills, and the distance for which you are training.
Speed and Technique Phase
Objective: Increase both the pace you can maintain and the efficiency of your exercise.
Estimated time: Three weeks to several months, depending on current conditioning and performance goals.
Race Simulation Phase
Objective: Boost race day confidence by completing workouts similar to what you will be doing in the event.
Estimated time: One to two months, depending on current conditioning and race goals.
Objective: Feel mentally and physically fresh for a race.
Estimated time: One to four weeks before your event, depending on the distance. Sprint-distance races usually only require a week of tapering.
Your Training Log
When you think of a journal or log, the first thought that might occur is sentimentality about the past. Part of the value of keeping such records is to remind you of your accomplishments, but keeping a record of your triathlon training and racing has more practical applications as well.
Training logs can help you avoid injuries and improve your performance. Maintaining an accurate log of your daily and weekly workouts is one of the best ways to keep on track. A log that chronicles the variables that affect your energy level and performance can help you achieve your triathlon goal.
You can purchase preprinted training logs. Some have motivating quotes and pictures and space for many variables. If you’re a computer geek, several workout log programs are available.
There’s no one way to keep a training log. Whatever you think are the most applicable variables are fine. Consider these variables for your own log:
• Hours slept. Current research suggests moderate sleep deprivation has little effect on performance during the adrenaline high of competition. Still, that ragged feeling during a three mile training jog might be the result of too little snooze time.
• Waking pulse. Record your beats per minute when you awake, preferably while you’re still in bed. An increase of more than three or four beats can signal overtraining.
• Distances and times. Tracking correct distances and workout times can keep you honest. It is also your most reliable measuring stick to check your progress.
• Time of day. Studies show that our energy levels fluctuate during the day. As long as all other variables remain the same, you can pinpoint your peak time of day for a workout.
• Intensity. Use descriptive terms or a scale of 1 to 10 (1 is very easy and 10 is extremely difficult). Monitoring intensity levels is a key in avoiding too many back-to-back killer workouts (or in avoiding that crippling disease couchus potatoeus).
• Feelings. Though many things can affect your mood, a change in mood is sometimes a precursor to sickness and an indication of overtraining. For example, irritability can be an early sign that you’re pushing yourself too hard.
• Injury flags. Pay close attention to any unusual pain, especially around the joints where most injuries occur. Note any such aches and pains in your log.
• Weight. Get on the scale in the morning, after you’ve relieved yourself. A 3 percent or more loss of body weight might mean you’ve lost too much fluid. Take an easy day or, better yet, a day off.
• Weather. If you are easily affected by heat, cold, humidity, or other weather variables, keep track of these conditions.
• Notes. Perhaps the best part about keeping a training log is flipping back to read about that special swim, ride, run, or race.”