Monday, February 1, 2016

Progressive Training Camp Load

by Dave Latourette

Quite often I’ll emphasize to athletes about consistency of training and patience for large parts of the year and within a long term planning structure. In the end it is still the backbone of improvement as an athlete, but every once in a while we need something to try and speed up the process.

Yes there are times (and athletes) that demand stretching the limits a bit to help nudge the process along. Everyone has their own way of going about it but I prefer short overload periods that are reasonable to recover from without extended periods of downtime or having to take time off work for an entire week-long camp if that is problematic. I find that if the overload period is too long or too demanding the downtime needed to bounce back is more destructive to the training process than the good that could come from the overload. You can structure these periods into your own training across a season, and you can do it in your normal training grounds if you prefer.

Below would be an example of an athlete who has a peak iron-distance race in mid to late July. I like a progressive approach to these overload periods staggered about every five to six weeks. These overloads periods can be done for 70.3 racing as well with some adjustments.


Late March to early April
Two day overload period, both days done as swim / bike / run days

Prelude: Train as normal through Wednesday or Thursday and take a very light Friday
Total Weekend Volume: 10-12 hours

  • Saturday: Swim 60-75 minutes / Ride 3-4 hours / Run 30-45 minutes
  • Sunday: Same

Keys: The main ingredient is getting a lot of steady swimming in, some climbing on the bike for a variety of intensity, and running should be done easy to a relaxed effort. Training shouldn’t have any key main sets in cycling or running this far from the peak event.

Recovery: If you get it right you should be back to normal swimming and structure by Wednesday and normal intensity by Thursday or Friday. The emphasis is on recovery for Monday through Wednesday.


Early May
Three day overload period that is ideally placed four to six weeks out from a lower priority race, usually a 70.3

Prelude: Train as normal through Tuesday, medium to light training on Wednesday and take a very light Thursday.
Total Weekend Volume: 14-16 hours … or at to about 10% above normal weekly training volume

  • Friday: Swim 60-75 minutes / Ride 3-4 hours with a mix of hills and steady state efforts on the flats / Run 30-45 minutes relaxed finish with strides
  • Saturday: Ride 3-4 hours, no major efforts then a run of up to 60 minutes that includes around 20 minutes of 70.3 paced running mixed into blocks of no more than 5 minutes at a time (be honest here with your pace)
  • Sunday: Very similar to Saturday, except the swim main set should focused on the needs of the upcoming race. The bike ride should include some intervals or efforts at “race intensity” sprinkled in (maybe 40 minutes of specific work) and the run should be done relaxed and finished with light strides

Keys: Similar to the first block with the exception of small pieces of 70.3 race intensity mixed across the three days

Recovery: If you get it right you should be back to normal swimming and structure by Thursday or Friday and normal load by Saturday or Sunday. Again, emphasize regeneration and recovery Monday through Thursday and then adapt Friday to Sunday as needed.


Mid-June
A six day period that ideally end six to seven weeks out from your peak race. I prefer that it ends this far out from the peak race so that the peak training period doesn’t have a lot of ups and downs in the training rhythm and you hit your final prep period ready to do specific work.

Prelude: Train as normal through the previous Friday then take a very light training and personal load Saturday and Sunday so you are prepped for a Monday start.
Total Volume: 130% to 150% of normal training hours across a six-day block. To do this you’d ideally like to have a number of days off, or very flexible days with no distractions to allow for proper training and recovery. If it’s not possible to structure a week that way, you’re better off executing the first four day of this block over a four-day weekend. Trying to do this week and skimping on recovery could be a disaster.

  • Monday: Swim 60 minutes / Ride 3-4 hours steady on mixed terrain / Run 30-45 minutes easy to steady effort
  • Tuesday: Run 105-120 minutes on a mix of flat and rolling terrain / Ride 60 minutes easy later in the day
  • Wednesday: Swim 60 minutes / Ride 2.5-3 hours with about 45 minutes of steady 70.3 efforts mixed into the middle of the ride / Run 30-45 minutes easy to steady and finish with light strides
  • Thursday: Re-grouping day -- Swim no more than 1500-2000m with something like 30-40 x 50 easy on 10 seconds rest / Ride 60 minutes very easy at 85+ rpm later in the day
  • Friday: Swim 60-75 minutes / Ride 2-3 hours with a mix of hills and steady state efforts on the flats / Run 30-45 minutes relaxed finish with strides
  • Saturday: Swim 60 minutes / Ride 3-4 hours with about 45 minutes of steady 70.3 efforts mixed into the middle of the ride / Run 30-45 minutes starting easy building to steady pace
  • Sunday: Most people might be tempted to train another big day here but I prefer to use it as an emphasized recovery day. Go for a very easy 60-minute spin first thing in the morning followed by a big breakfast and a nap. If you feel up to it, another swim similar to Thursday works well. I advise following this up with Monday off from training or another very easy swim.

Keys: This block should stretch the limits of your volume capacity. If you need to, pull out intensive main sets or shorten them to be able handle the volume of training. As well, easy sessions and re-grouping days should be just that. Re-group all of your resources and energy the best you can.

Recovery: This is going to take a little bit longer but if you get it right you can get back to frequency of training late in the week. At most, the training volume in the following week would be maxed out at 50% of the overload week. Build frequency back first.

This will take some planning and some flexibility but for many people it pays off. If you have a tendency toward injury or illness or are newer to the sport I’d advise not doing this type of training. In that case you are better off clicking out the consistent weeks and striving for the occasional two day overload block when you are ready.


Dave Latourette is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California, who works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. You can learn more about Dave and follow him at: TrainToEndure.com, his blog, or on twitter @dklatourette
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