Endurance training is about helping your body become an efficient machine, using fuel and oxygen well, allowing you to keep going for long periods at moderate intensity. But it’s also important to incorporate strength and interval work. An efficient machine + strong muscles = go faster for longer!
In practice this means including some strength work, so hill repeats on the bike and run, and also interval sessions. These are essentially hard efforts that are faster than steady pace, with periods of recovery (the ‘rest’ interval).
The length of intervals is key here. We want quite long intervals, 5mins and upwards. This still requires reliance on the aerobic system, so you’re still building endurance at the same time as putting additional pressure on muscles to develop.
A solid endurance training period followed by strength training has three key purposes:
It primarily develops an efficient system, costing the body less to perform. This is essential when your fuel supply is essentially on a downward curve for the whole event, your body burning more energy than you can replace.
Triathlon is not always about who goes fast – it’s normally about who slows down the least!
The low initial intensity of training helps avoid injury and allows for shorter recovery times, meaning the overall quantity of training can be higher. It prepares a body to absorb the greater intensity of strength training, which is where we are now.
It breaks the training period up into shorter blocks, keeping motivation and interest levels higher. A winter period of steady training followed by a spring-time change into harder work is a great reinforcement of an athlete’s perception of progress, that they’re getting closer to racing.
Strength training across the three disciplines can take many forms. Fighting gravity is always a good one, though harder in water!
Examples of strength sessions
Using paddles and a pull buoy, swim 200m reps at 90% of maximum effort. The paddles create a bigger platform for your arm to pull through the water. Get a swim coach to advise and watch you use them.
Hills again are natural strength-builders! Aim to ride ‘up and over’, so again a manageable hard effort without the need for complete collapse at the top. Keep pedalling, allow your effort level to drop gradually and under your control.
Hill rep sessions, holding hard-but-sustainable efforts uphill over 3-4mins and jogging back down, are ideal.
Keep the session continuous, avoid working so hard that you have to stop – hold back a little from what you know you’re capable of and finish the session with good form. Running off-road, including on soft surfaces like sand, provides even more benefit.
(Images: Jonny Gawler)
For lots more performance advice and workouts, head to our Triathlon Taining section