Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Triathlon Training - Big Day Training

Big Day Training (BDT) is the most specific form of endurance training that you can do for long course racing (a short course example is below as well). The program on the site is designed to progress an athlete from riding long to BDT.

The first step with BDT is to be able to move (at any pace) across your entire day. Here is an example:

Swim 60 minutes, Bike 5 hours, Run 60 minutes

  • All easy pace
  • Meals in between all sessions
  • Sessions are split apart
  • Total time to complete might be up to 12 hours including the breaks between the three sessions.


  • Body learns how to digest and function all day
  • Low biomechanical risk
  • Reduced fatigue

Once you get to the point that this is easy then you can make the back half of each session steady-state. This type of workout addresses the key limiter of most IM athletes -- base endurance.


Gordo - what would be the next step if base endurance is not a limiter anymore?

First up, don't compromise your steady-state endurance training for intensity or monster sessions. I think that is a common mistake. People try massive increases in intensity or volume -- and -- end up failing to get the benefit because they need greatly extended rest periods. The overall goal should simply be consistent training on a daily basis for a long time.

The next step (with the workout that I posted above) is to increase the steady-state component of the training. An example of where an elite, or speedy AGer, might take it:

  • Swim 5,000 meters, 3,500 meter main set done moderately hard to hard
  • Bike 5-6 hours, with hills done steady to moderately hard, flats done easy to steady
  • Run 1 hour easy

So the next step is to increase the race specific component within the Big Day.

I know very few athletes where endurance is not a limiter; it requires constant work. Most IMers think that they graduate to tempo-type training (I certainly did when I started). It doesn't work that way. The core of the optimal program is a varying amount of steady-state training, year-round.

The ultimate goal of training is to improve race performance at goal race intensity. Most of the IM field has an average race intensity of Aerobic Threshold (AeT), or lower. Many (most?) of the field believe that IM performance is optimized through maximizing pace/performance/endurance at Functional Threshold Pace/Power (FTP) or AeT+20-30 bpm. That's not my experience.

If you test the aerobic economy of most amateur endurance athletes -- lactate step test or other method -- then you'll most often find upside through increased focus on steady-state economy. Even with elites, it is worth reviewing their economy profile to search for upside. Athletes with exceptional VO2 often use aerobic power to overcome a lack of aerobic economy.


Example of Short Course Big Day Training

The workout below is an example of a day that I built for one of my athletes that is preparing for a late summer Oly Distance race. She has a Sprint Tri in four weeks (three weeks from the date of the session below).


Gordo Challenge, you're going to swim, bike and run -- all before 10am!
Do a short jog in the parking lot of the pool (no joke) -- get your body moving
Then -- do you favorite warm-up for a swim (let me know what you end up doing, this will be "your" pre-race warm up
Then... swim 1000 as...
100 easy, 100 steady, 100 mod-hard... then alternate steady/mod-hard by 100 until you finish the 1000
Hop out of the pool, get changed into your bike kit
BIKE, ~7:50AM
Choose a route in advance that will take you ~1 hour to complete
5 min easier then (3x) 12 min Steady / 3 min Mod-Hard
Then Steady/Easy to the end of the ride
5 min relaxed, focus on your cadence then
(2x) 3 min Steady, 3 min Fast, 3 min Steady, 1 min Power-Walk
5 min relaxed

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