If you are able to do the mileage but can't seem to ramp up the RPMs on your machine, then it's time to examine your training plan. The following is a coaching strategy developed from over 25 years of Triathlon racing. Here are some important things to consider:
· Bike Fit: Road and Triathlon
· Strength Training
· Interval Workouts
One of the first things to remember is that speed in a triathlon begins with the power you are able to manufacture on your bike. Power is quite literally output or watts you produce by pedaling. The power you generate can be impacted by a number a variables so let’s consider the ones you can control. First is strength (we will cover that one a little later) second is your cardio output/fitness and finally how your bike fits. Looking back over the last 20 plus years one of the biggest changes I made to improve my performance was considering how my bike fit.
While you can’t control race day conditions you can control the bike your riding. First as a fellow triathlete and coach I always suggest newcomers to the sport begin on a road bike versus a tri-bike. For one they are easier handle and allow the rider to participate in a wider range of racing and recreational rides. Let’s face it you either fall in love with the sport or find that it’s just not in your DNA. Either way a well fitted bike can make all the difference in a comfortable recreational ride or increased speed with less depletion of your energy stores. Experienced age-group athletes desiring to increase speed and efficiency on the bike should really consider adding a triathlon bike to their arsenal. Regardless of the style or brand you choose make sure the bike is the correct size for your body and take the time to work with a professional bike fitter (I know a good local guy!!!!) who is experienced. Proper fit allows for effective aerodynamics and comfort to achieve optimal and sustainable power.
This topic is not discussed a great deal among athletes in the sport. Most figure as long as I put the miles on the road and the meters in the pool my race day should go as expected. First and foremost….strength creates force and power. That means as athletes we need to build a foundation grounded in strength to develop greater speed to produce more force resulting in better splits and finish times. Strength training can benefit you on the swim bike and run portions of your race. Not all strength training protocols are appropriate for endurance athletes. It’s important that you get with a certified professional trainer or coach to discuss your strength as well as your weaknesses in each of the three elements of the sport. Triathlon may seem like one sport but in actuality it is three individual sports accomplished in one day. Train your weaknesses not just your strengths. I suggest you start with the foundation of your strength….your core. Stop thinking of your “core” as your abs or six-pack. The core or pillar is from your shoulders to your glutes. A stable and strong core helps produce power and efficiency in your limbs. Good strength programs should always emphasize this first. Build stability then move to more complex movements then add weights. Remember not all strength training needs to be with weights. Body weight resistance training hill climbs and ballistic movements like jumping all improve strength and teach your neuromuscular system to load safely and efficiently.
Lets face it…you have to go fast to get faster. That is the rule and there are no exceptions. So build on your bike fit and foundational strength training with a good mix of interval workouts designed to test your physical and mental toughness. YES your mental toughness. Depending on your race distance there are moments in every athletes day that test their mental fortitude. You can find yourself questioning why in the hell did I ever decide I wanted to put my body through this. What am I insane?? I can just quit now and who will care? The answer is always you will care. So then how do we prepare for this little roadblock? Interval training helps the body push through the touch times takes you back down again just enough to gain some mental stability and recover the heart rate and respiration in time to send you back again to the uncomfortable zone. Remember that when developing a training plan fitness is a process. Therefore pursue a gradual increase in interval training and speed to avoid injury and achieve lasting results. Get with a coach to develop intervals that are gradual and increase over time based on your ability and goals.
Work Plus Rest equals Success!!! Recovery is an often overlooked component of increasing fitness. This includes but is not limited to sleep nutrition hydration and yes….a day off! The cellular structure of the body needs time to build after you have work so hard tearing it down. The body responds well to rest. So it is suggested that you get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. Eat clean and healthy calories (calories are your fuel). Stay well hydrated all day everyday and avoid substances that interfere with any of these elements. Believe it or not all of these things will speed up the process or producing force and increase speed and efficiency. Make time for recovery as part of your training plan.
A FINAL NOTE
Remember weather you are an experienced athlete or someone who is new to the sport preparation is a process. It can’t be rushed and is rarely one that won’t have its bad days. Take successful workouts and disappointing results in stride. We all peak and fall in our training and make no mistake even the pros have bad days. Its important to get with a certified trainer or coach and let them help you peak on race day through solid evidence based training programs designed for you based on a foundational assessment and discussion of what your goals are for race day.