Some Do’s and Don’ts of Early Season Training
by Chuck GrazianoUSA Triathlon Level II Certified CoachUSA Cycling Level III Certified CoachPSIA Level III Certified Alpine Ski Coach
During the early part of the training season, your focus should be on much more than just getting back to training. You should create a broad-brush picture of what your training will look like (your Annual Training Plan) and then set out to accomplish the specific goals you’ve set for this early part of the year. In this article, I give you my take on what your goals should focus on.
Most of you are aware of the term “periodization” and generally how it applies to your training. Periodization defined is the way in which we break down the training/racing year into segments in order to produce a desired result by focusing on specific areas at the most appropriate times of the year.The concept is not new although the specifics of how the segments should be organized has been debated over the years.
The most commonly accepted approach is to start your plan with a focus on general training and becoming more “race specific” as you progress in your plan. While there are several labels put on the different periods, I use these:
- Preparation Phase– The initial weeks of training where we get back in the habit of structured training, developing good mental habits and starting to get the body ready for more focused/higher volume work.
- Base Building- Depending on your primary “A” race, you’ll spend a good deal of time in base building, where we’re doing two things: 1) focusing on good economy and mechanics; correcting technique weaknesses that you’ve identified, and 2) building your endurance base by increasing volume each week.
- Build Phase- This is where we begin to work on pace and intensity.Volume may drop off a bit as we start to work at a higher HR and wattage output. Even with a drop in volume, the increased intensity is going to maintain and increase your Training Stress.
- Peak Phase- The weeks immediately leading up to your “A” race or event. In these weeks, doing the wrong things can completely ruin the months you’ve trained up until now!
- Transition Phase- A phase that many leave off their plan or don’t pay attention to. No, it’s not wise to try to maintain your peak fitness year-round.That only leads to a breakdown or burnout. This phase is intended to give your mind and body a rest (even if you don’t believe you actually need one).
This time of year, I like to spend time with my athletes focusing on economy. I’ve found that it pays off in big dividends later on and even though the training seems easy, huge gains are being made by improving mechanics. Let’s take swimming as an example (since that’s a really easy one). There are only two ways to get faster in the water: You can increase propulsion or you can decrease drag. Most people will get in the water and just try to increase their pace each time they swim, thereby, focusing only on propulsion. Believe it or not, at sealevel and at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, water is 784 times more dense than air (try running in the pool!). Trying to increase propulsion without correcting your body position in the water (decreasing drag) just uses more and more energy. Yes, you may get faster, but without working on drag first, you’ll be using way more energy than necessary.
Let’s take an example that is pretty common: Many swimmers cut their stroke off short and start their “catch” way too early. Check your stroke count over 25 yards. Is it more than 20? More than 22? If you had a stroke count of 18 (which is pretty good) and reached just a bit further with each stroke (getting about 3 more inches per stroke) and if you were swimming at a 1:30 per 100 yard pace, that additional 3 inches per stroke would have you swimming 106 yards for the same number of strokes. Extending the math, you’d be saving 1 minute 30 seconds in a 1500 meter swim (Olympic Distance Tri) using the same energy.
Check your body alignment and balance.
- Neck straight and aligned with spine (head in neutral position)
- Hips and feet near the surface of the water
- Kick generated from the hips
- Arms extend out forward and do not cross body mid-line
Check your stroke length (how far are you getting per stroke?)
- Reach “for the top shelf” to get long
- Body rolling to the side of your extending arm
- Getting “long” in the body
- How many strokes per length? Under 20?
When was the last time you had your fit checked? It changes over time.
How efficient is your pedal stroke?
- Listen for sound of your rear tire- A constant “whir” or a “whir, whir, whir” as you hit the dead spots?
- Improve skills with Independent Leg Training (ILTs). Use low resistance; they’re not for strength training, they’re for developing speed skills and efficiency.
- Do Spin ups: 30 second increasing RPMs each 10 seconds until you are going as fast as you can without rocking.
- Eliminate unnecessary energy expenditure by limiting “vertical oscillation”
- Foot in contact with the ground for the shortest time possible
- Foot moving up and down,not swinging fore and aft.
- Landing on ball of foot, not heal (This is a controversial point. If you are currently a high volume heel striker who has not had a history of injury, you shouldn’t make any quick changes.
- Foot landing under the body, not in front of it.