Monday, February 1, 2016

Stay Strong

by Dave Latourette

Quite often as coaches or athletes we search for ways to improve our weaknesses so that we can improve our overall ability as triathletes. One thing we don’t want to see happen through this process is that our strengths fall off so much that they become a liability... dare I say, a weakness. Even though the saying goes, “Train your weaknesses, race your strengths,” you still need make sure you have strengths to fall back on.

As you go through early year and early season preparation by trying to shore up weakness, I wanted to share some ideas on how to maintain your strengths across the process. The first thing we have to do of course is identify what our strengths and weaknesses are. For the athlete who is balanced across three sports relative to the field, it becomes a little more complicated so you’ll have to identify your strengths within each sport and be sure to maintain those. What I’ll share are the more common items that I deal with as a coach.

If Your Swim Is A Strength
I have a few athletes who have a strong lifetime swim foundation so we tend to lay off a certain amount of swimming for large periods of time. We feel we can at least maintain form by swimming only two times per week. By doing that it allows us to take an extra session per week and dedicate it to shoring up some cycling and running or even free up time for family or other commitments. Therefore, the strategies we have used successfully include any or all of the following:

  • Every third week swim three times in that week.
  • Keep swim load high over the two sessions per week and make them very specific.
  • Increase swim volume over the final 14-17 days leading into the key race by adding 50-100% of current swim volume. Meanwhile, drop some running load first, followed by cycling load.

If Cycling Is Your Strength
From a time management and availability standpoint, having your bike riding as a strength is very valuable. To improve your cycling you need time... time across a given day and time as it relates to long term improvement. Sure, we can use high intensity to improve it but high intensity improvements come quick and don’t always last long for most. So, if your cycling is your backbone:

  • Identify your strength in cycling -- is it your muscular endurance/fatigue resistance or is it your ability at functional threshold?
  • If you are naturally prone to or have trained yourself to tolerate going long quite easily, then you can typically spend periods strengthening other areas while maintaining that cycling strength by riding long once every other week instead of weekly. The key is maintaining frequency across your riding but freeing up time by eliminating some of your long riding and replace it with an item that may need more work.
  • If you tend to train up very quickly at functional threshold, you can eliminate some of that work on a weekly basis. By doing threshold work less frequently or in smaller portions you’ll likely free up time and energy to dedicate to other areas while maintaining that strength.

If you can selectively skip some long rides and intensive rides I don’t have any doubt you’ll maintain your cycling strength until six to eight weeks out when you’d want to bring the cycling back up to scale.

If Running Is Your Strength
I believe running is your strength when your triathlon running is up to par relative to your open run times and at a level that you are able close the run in triathlon events by not fading across the distance.

I currently have an athlete who has great depth across his running and this is how we are handling it:

  • Instead of running four to five times per week we’ve reduced it to three sessions.
  • We’ve added one swim per week and one bike ride per week.
  • None of the run sessions are overly difficult or need extended recovery.
  • If running is up to standard six weeks out from the first race we may add only one run every other week or not all. If it is lagging behind at six weeks we’ll add some load by adding a fourth run per week and maybe some load to the individual sessions.

None of these strategies are black and white by any means, but they are from cases I have seen and used. What I hope is that it gives you a way to look at a variety of ways to work through improving weak links with a focus on maintaining your strengths.

Stay strong.


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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