Monday Minute: How to create a sport-specific training block
Most of us have spent the 2020 triathlon season doing some base training, more base training, and even more base training. We're base trained out! As we head into what would typically be our off-season training period, give some consideration to a single-sport training block.
By 'block,' I mean a 2-3 month training window where you focus on a specific sport. It may be swim technique and speed, increasing power on the bike, increased strength, or better run form/running faster.
The single-sport focus generally means you're spending multiple days per week on that one sport while still maintaining the other sports at a minimum level. Two to three months is a significant commitment for a single sport, but the benefits are considerable.
Here's one way to set up a training block (or talk to your coach, and they'll do it for you!):
Set a goal - there could be a race at the end of your training block, or more likely, a virtual event/test.
Test yourself, so you have a starting point. Measurements could include speed, power, cadence (bike and run), and stroke count (swim).
Spend the first month increasing base mileage (not just base training!). The focus needs to be on building endurance and sport-specific strength. For sport-specific strength training, you will need your coach to build a strength regimen or recruit a personal trainer to create a strength plan based on your coach's single-sport plan. MAKE SURE your coach and personal trainer are working TOGETHER for YOU).
Once your base is established (this includes the sport-specific strength training), you can start to add in some higher intensity training - think threshold training. This is where you're starting to do drills and speed work - for example, improving your stroke technique and getting faster over a set distance (for example: 100 meters or yards for the swim, increased power, higher RPM and distance on the bike, and cadence/speed on the run are great places to start and you can work upwards from there). KEY: remember that as one sport's training increases in volume and/or intensity. You'll need to reduce the number of training sessions for the other sports so that you can get full recovery between training sessions.
Finally, really focus on speed during interval sessions. Shorten recovery time to mimic races and test yourself over shorter distances (shorter than your race). As you would do for a race, incorporate a taper, and prepare for your in-person or virtual race.
Race day/test day arrives - go out and give your best effort and record your improvements!
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention nutrition. Pre-training meals and recovery from your sessions requires adequate and timely nutrition. Support yourself with great nutrition to maximize the benefit of your hard work!
Happy training! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!
Maria Netherland is a Northwest Florida-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Endurance and Youth & Juniors Certified Coach as well as a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist. Coach Maria loves working for athletes of all abilities, military athletes, and new triathletes as they pursue their goals. Maria is a veteran of the US Army and a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.