Looking to get to T3 a little quicker this year? Perhaps you’ve hit a plateau, or feel like there’s a missing ingredient in your approach.
When manipulating the basic ingredients, or tenets of training- volume, frequency, intensity and duration, there are literally thousands of different combinations. If your running is stuck in a rut, a simple tweak in your approach could help you break out.
The Approach: Higher Volume
No magic here. If you can increase your workload over time and absorb that load, you will improve. For many triathletes barely touching the double digits, higher volume can mean increasing from miles in the 10-20 per week range to the 30-40 a week range.
The benefit of focusing on volume is that it’s easy to track and proven to work. Just pick a simple metric to track- time or miles, and focus on increasing weekly time at a rate no greater than around 10% a week
Avoid the pitfall of increasing miles too quickly, and be sure to keep a balance of training between sports. Many triathletes eventually find a point of diminishing returns with run mileage, where it makes more sense to rest with additional time or where the recovery required from additional runs cuts too much into the energy required for quality cycling
If you plan to increase volume substantially, consider devoting a chunk of time solely to running (such as winter) where you’re willing and able to scale back on other sports. Keep a small amount of cycling and swimming in the plan, while keeping the recovery cost from those sports low.
The Approach: High Frequency
High frequency leads to increased durability, which makes you more resistant to injury, and better able to hold pace and form at the end of the race. A triathlete only running twice per week can reap benefits by gradually increasing to 5-6 weekly runs.
A pro of upping the frequency of your runs is that it helps the athlete build muscular endurance while allowing you to take some of the emphasis off of very long runs (such as getting in a certain number of 20 miles runs for IRONMAN). Avoiding the steep recovery cost of lots of super long weekend runs can in turn allow you to focus on adding in more quality down the road while avoiding injuries.
One potential downside to frequency is the transition time (driving, showering) required by adding these additional workouts. This can be alleviated by making many of your workouts bricks. Also, you still need to find the balance between quality and quantity. If you’ve been falling into the trap of running all your workouts hard, then running daily will force you to nix the habit.
Anyone can benefit from more frequent running. Start by dividing your current volume into more runs before adding in additional time. For triathletes running 20 plus miles per week already, increasing frequency can simply mean dividing your current weekly mileage into 5 or 6 runs instead of 2-3 runs.
The Approach: More Quality (Intensity)
Finding the right balance between quality and quantity can be tough even for experienced athletes. To complicate matters, triathletes have to balance quality and quantity in three separate sports.
Some form of quality running is an important part of a well rounded training plan. Yet seasoned runners also understand that running every run all out is a quick way to top out and get injured. If you’re new to speedwork we propose keeping it simple to start.
Before you begin, first build to a sustainable and appropriate level of frequency and volume comprised of easy to moderate runs. Then, assuming you’ve been running regularly for 6 months it’s appropriate to then add in a regular tempo run. We’ll define tempo as the pace you can hold for about an hour, or for most runners, between 10k and half marathon pace. Start with continuous tempo runs of about 20 minutes and gradually increase to about 45 minutes.