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Structuring Your Own Training: A Guide for Runners and Triathletes
Do you find yourself ramping up your exercise intensity only on weekends or running at the same pace day in and day out? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. These are common pitfalls for runners and triathletes who may not have the guidance of a professional coach. While it’s convenient to cram high-intensity, high-volume sessions into weekends and maintain a steady pace throughout the week, these habits can set you up for stagnation or worse, injury. In this blog post, we will explore how to structure your training effectively, so you can avoid these common mistakes and set yourself up for long-term success.
The Risks of Weekend Warrior Syndrome
If your weekdays are consumed by work or other obligations, it’s tempting to save all your intense long workouts for the weekend. This approach can lead to:
- Overuse Injuries: Rapid spikes in training intensity can stress tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
- Inadequate Recovery: Packing intense sessions close together leaves little time for your body to recover.
- Performance Plateaus: You won’t achieve the training adaptations you’re aiming for when your workload is inconsistent.
The Monotony of One-Speed Training
Training at the same pace or effort level every time you lace up your sneakers has its drawbacks too:
- Limited Improvement: Failing to challenge your body means missing out on performance gains.
- Psychological Stagnation: Boredom can sap your motivation over time.
- No Race-Specific Preparation: You need different types of runs to prepare for the demands of a race. You will need different effort levels at different points in your race.
Building a Balanced Training Week
Here’s how to construct a well-rounded training week that balances intensity, duration, and recovery:
- Start with a Base
- Monday: Easy run (60% of max heart rate)
- Tuesday: Moderate run or bike session (70-75% of max heart rate)
- Wednesday: Swim or rest day
- Incorporate Speed and Hill Work
- Thursday: Intervals or hill repeats. Start with a warm-up, then do 4-6 intervals or hill sprints, followed by a cool-down.
- Long Slow Distance (LSD) Run
- Saturday or Sunday: This should be a long, but easy-paced run, aiming for 65-70% of max heart rate. Duration should be 1.5x your average weekday run duration.
- Cross-Training and Rest Days
- Friday: Consider cross-training like cycling or swimming.
- Sunday (if Saturday is LSD day): Rest or engage in light activities like walking or yoga.
Switch out some workouts for time trials, tempo runs, or different cross-training activities to maintain enthusiasm and stimulate different energy systems.
Adjust your training load based on how you feel. If you’re too fatigued, replace a moderate run with an easy one, or a speed session with cross-training.
Before a key race, reduce your training volume by 20-30% for 7-14 days, while maintaining some level of intensity.
Training for running or triathlon requires more than just lacing up your shoes and heading out the door. Structured training, which includes varied intensities and rest days, is essential for improvement and staying injury-free. By avoiding the pitfalls of weekend warrior syndrome and one-speed training, you can not only boost your performance but also keep your training exciting and fulfilling.