How should I train…

for the coming year or season

stopwatch

You have set your goals for the new year, chosen the races you want to do…..now what? How do you get started with training?

3T Planning

Time – How many training hours you can really afford?

Be realistic – your training schedule has to be planned according to the time you can actually put aside for it, not the time you think you have or should devote to it.

Training – How should you train? What should you include?

Obviously, practice time for your chosen sport – Swim, Bike and Run for the triathletes, Batting/Catching/Throwing for the cricketers.  But don’t forget to work on other supporting elements as well, such as strength training and polymeric work.  If you are training intensely, you might also want to incorporate things like yoga or pilates for recovery and stretching, and physiotherapy and massage sessions (including post workout self-massage).

Tracking – Set training goals for each training cycle. That will give you milestones to know if you are on target, and also avoid the Last-Minute Training Syndrome. Many Ironman-bound athletes never get past 50% of the race distance till 4 weeks before their race, then suddenly try to amp up their mileage as the race nears.

Once you have worked out your 3Ts, look at your training plan again.  Now add in the races you want to go for, and set the plan to prepare you for THE race.

Here are 5 tips to help you get race-ready:

1. Be consistent

It is not about training 20 hours this week because you free, but not training at all next week because you have a deadline to meet at work. In the first place, you may not survive the 20 hours of training without injury.

When it comes to learning a skill or building fitness, regularity matters more than time.  It is better to practice more often in small amounts (if that is all you can afford), rather than sporadically and in large chunks.  If 4 training hours is what you can definitely work in each week, then plan around that.  Aim for consistency in your training.

  1. Be specific

Training for a sprint triathlon is not the same as for training for an Ironman event.

Racing on a hot and hilly marathon would be more demanding that your usual early morning run on level ground.  Is your training specific to your race?

You need to run to prepare for a marathon, and swim/bike/run for a triathlon.  You can’t really prepare for a run with water running, or cycle in the gym to prepare for a 180km ride.

  1. Recover

Proper recovery is important for keeping the body and mind in shape for the training stress and challenges.

If you do 4 hours of intense training each week, what would you need to do to recover from that, so that you can repeat the process again next week?  Even at 4 hours a week, you still need to think about recovery, especially if you have not been working out for a while.

What sort of recovery is suitable for you? Yoga to stretch you out and relax your mind?  Pilates to strengthen your core and improve your posture?  Massage to keep your muscles supple?

  1. Testing

To get the most out of your training, you need to know the challenge you facing.  This means knowing your areas of strength and weakness.  For instance, a swimmer might have trouble improving his time because his technique is weak. There are tests and analytical tools which can give you a better picture of which areas might be holding you back; and enable you to formulate a plan and approach that would give you the best return on your time and effort!

  1. Write your Training Plan

As someone once said, “To fail to plan, is to plan to fail”.

Prepare a detailed training plan that ties all the above elements together.  Create your own or use one of the templates available online.  Or work with a coach who can design one for you.  Having a detailed training plan helps you to stay on course, and gets you through the times when you are too tired to think about what to do next. Without a plan, training sessions may be unduly affected by your state of mind, level of energy or whatever is going on in other areas of your life.

Most importantly, a good training plan ensures that all the important training areas are covered in the correct order.  A triathlete with a detailed training plan knows that as long as he sticks to the plan, he will have covered the distances and practiced in the conditions he needs to before he goes to the race.  A triathlete without a plan might not.