For the majority of triathletes in the Northern hemisphere, we are training in inclimate weather from November through March. It’s cold. There’s probably snow on the ground, and the daylight hours are limited. Not exactly an inspiring environment to be knocking out a bunch of breakthrough workouts. I refer to the training done this time of year as Winter Miles.
While Winter Miles may not be very exciting, they are, in my opinion, extremely important for any athlete wanting to race well come summertime. Winter Miles are where we lay the foundation for successful racing. In this newsletter, I’m going to give you the first of three ideas to consider for your Winter Miles.
Consistency Will Get You There!
I’ll cut to the chase right away: There is absolutely no substitute for consistent, year long training. Yes, we can take breaks for recovery and to rest the mind, but these are breaks from hard training and racing, not from exercise itself. If you are an athlete who has truly embraced consistency all year long, year after year, you can skip this newsletter. You know this stuff already, so go do what you do. On the other hand, if you struggle with the idea of being a year long athlete, please read on.
It has been my experience that athletes who remain active all year long maintain a base-level of fitness that helps them remain competitive, they keep motivation, and, more importantly, they tend to stay injury free.
So exactly what is constant training for a triathlete? Good question. On a very basic level, it is maintaining an active lifestyle. Beyond that though, because we are athletes, we need to be engaging in physical activity that is at very least allowing our bodies to maintain fitness, adding to the foundation we have built over the years. This means maintaining our endurance weekly (i.e. the long/endurance efforts), maintaining our strength (i.e. hills, hills, and more hills!), and maintaining a basic amount of our speed (i.e. strides & short sprints). All three of these elements on a consistent basis, every week, every month, all year long. If you haven’t already read my thoughts on the Standard Training Week, this would be a good place to start.
Being consistent with your training is not an easy task, and there is an equal amounts of physical and mental difficulty involved in it. For now, I’m going to discuss the physical. The mental aspect of consistency will be the topic of a later article.
By taking a bird’s eye view of an entire year, we have two basic parts of training: Building fitness and Recovery. For both of these parts, it is extremely important to listen to one’s body, and act accordingly. In other words, when you feel good, you go for it! And when you feel tired, you back off.
This is the case no matter what phase of training you are in at the time. You listen to what your body is telling you, and you then execute training accordingly. So, for example, if you are in a fitness building phase, and your body says, “No way, Jose,” you back off, and do something that will promote recovery instead. You listen to your body.
Embracing the concept of a Standard Training Week will help you remain consistent with your training for the long term, not just during the “on season.” By using a standard week as a baseline, you can either add to it when training calls for it, or reduce it when in need of recovery. And with the Standard Training Week, you always have a base line to return to when needed.
For those of you new to consistent training, I recommend starting with the concept of the Standard Training Week and approaching it from a conservative standpoint. What I mean here is you should under-do it. If you think you can handle 12 hours of training, start with 10. If after a month of knocking out 10 hours per week you feel you can do more (and be honest, did you really hit every workout planned?), then bump it up to 12 hours. In other words, prove it. Prove that you can do 10 hours (or 8 hours or 6 hours — it’s all based on the what the individual needs). Show me that you can be consistent first, then start thinking about increasing your workload. There is no point in considering how much your buddy is training, or how many hours per week so-and-so pro triathlete does, when you have yet to be consistent in what you are capable of now.
Consistency, when it comes to endurance sport — and really everything in life — is king! Consistency will get you there.