One of the biggest challenges that I can see with any type of training is sorting out the ideal balance for your body.
Not everyone is the same, and while a couch to 5k program works for a significant percentage of the population, it does not work for everyone. That’s no insult, the couch to 5k program works great for a huge section of the population. But if I had tried to use any of the umptillion plans out there, I would have wound up injured and frustrated. It took me three and a half months to work up to a 5k.
For Triathletes the challenge is tripled because training cycling, running, or swimming would take enough out of you to actually wear you down to a nub of a person, but now you have to train to do all three. Your body doesn’t have the stamina to train all of them well every day and most programs actually do a seven day rotation that includes a day of rest.
How do I know this is difficult? Because I am trying to balance my swim training alongside ever increasing speed and distance in running. Even finding a balanced way to approach swim training is insanely difficult and made more difficult by my mentality. See, I tend to think as if miles of yards at a moderate to intense pace is better than fast pace work to the point that I have in the past swam 38 miles in one week, it was too much for not enough benefit. I am arguably just as fast and have the same endurance right now as I had then and I am faster in my butterfly – and instead of swimming 4 hours a day I’m swimming 45 minutes – 1 hour and thirty minutes a day.
Too much training and your body can’t recover, too little and you cannot handle the distance that you want to race.
Here are three handy ways to think about problem:
1. All Work is Work – Distance, Speed, or Technique your body reacts the same with fatigue. But you have to learn to keep technique on fast sets and on long sets without wearing down and allowing your stroke in swimming or your running form to fade into a distant memory of energized past. Short speed work outs can leave you more fatigued than long distance workouts, but speed work can take longer to recover from. A distance day or two can help you stretch out the muscles.
2. Rest Days – These are a must, and your body might need more than one in a week. A long easy run or swim once a week can really help you slow down and focus on form while recovering (not too long and definitely not fast). A rest day on Wednesday and Sunday may actually provide better results than going 6 days or 7 days a week. I know a few runners that actually have a 9 day work out cycle with periods of rest and recovery built in.
3. Allow work outs to substitute for work outs – general conditioning can be accomplished by swimming, running, or biking alongside conditioning. Figure out what balance produces the best results for you without undermining performance in any one area.
I do believe this conceptually will work for things other than triathlons – Swimmers can focus on Kick, Runners on Yoga – Cross Fitters on… Well, I’m not a big fan of cross fit, but they could use this to figure out a good rest day for their type of work out as well.