I sincerely hope that you, as an athlete, rested a bit this winter. Off season recovery is imperative, but as the calendar flips to February it is time to light up once again with the lifestyle of triathlon. I want to touch on a few critical elements of preseason triathlon activities and training: race planning, goal setting and phases of training.
You'd think Hendrix was back from the dead and playing one night only in British Columbia the way Ironman Canada sells out the very day they begin accepting applications. Wildflower has been compared to Grateful Dead shows and it, too, sells out every year. Triathlon is gathering no moss and, if you want to get into a race this year, you need to plan early. Elite and Pro level athletes with packed schedules will sometimes race 12-18 races per year, but they know they can only peak for, at the most, three races. Like elite athletes, you need to choose what event(s) means the most to you. Then grab a calendar and plan your season from that point, backwards to today. You will need to include weeks of active recovery (AKA rest) and weeks of focused intensity. Then you need to commit to those weeks and their purposes to plan for your peak. The most challenging part is choosing wisely. Too many races or races too close together will result in lackluster performances, burnout and injury.
Triathlete Zombies has nearly 50 members bound for Ironman California. Some of those have set for themselves the goal of finishing, others hope to qualify for Kona, and a few may even wish to win. (whether you have a race planned this season or not, you can still improve technique and gain fitness by setting some goals) Your goals should be clear and specific, challenging but realistic. Focus your training goals on learning and improvement and make them self-referenced (moving up a lane at masters and holding all the sets, running your favorite course faster, or a time trial on the bike that can be duplicated and improved upon). Create a few goals to reach for during a race as well - these performance oriented targets might include self talk such as "cue" words that help you work through tough moments ("keep it smooth" "technique" "glide" , etc.) or simple plans such as "if someone comes along side of me, I will hang with them". Goals will become a source of stress by which success and failure are defined, but they must be created in a positive manner so that they can act as a motivational strategy to enhance performance.
General Phases of Training:
An endurance athlete's season consists of several phases of training. USA Triathlon coaches use two broad terms: Preparatory Phase (General Preparation, Specific Preparation) and Competitive Phase (Pre-competitive and Main Competitions). The preparatory time is the time to build a base. Many look upon this 8-16 week time period as the "LSD" or Long Slow Distance period when training volume is high but intensity is low. As the race season approaches (8-10 weeks from competition) the intensity increases a bit to include lactate threshold and speed work and volume decreases slightly. Strength is a key element to racing triathlons. During the base phase you should schedule three strength workouts per week to build strength, as the race season nears, reduce those to two workouts per week. Then, during the race season, only one strength workout per week for maintenance. Strength doesn't always mean a trip to the gym: well planned hill repeats on the bike or run can be a huge benefit as well. â€¢