So it is early on in the season and we are faced with a long road ahead. When I speak with people about training for specific races or when talking about this years tri season, the analogy of building a house comes to mind. I tell them that building a strong foundation is important and that will make the house or training much stronger on down the line. I also tend to use this theory in my personal racing and it has brought some success in the past few years. Keeping the big picture in mind and not getting caught up with all the hype of getting in shape fast should be the priority. It is tough to do when comparing with athletes that kept good shape in the Off-Season, so you have to be patient.
I start with the FOUNDATION: When building a house the foundation of course is the part of the building that nobody sees when they drive up but from a structural standpoint, it is the part that holds up the house. In training, the foundation is broken up into two parts... 1) the cardiovascular structure of your body and 2) the technique you use when working out. The foundation is very important and there are some steps that need to be taken to make sure there are no issues on down the line when building a house or when coming of the winter months in training. Foundation problems in a house may not be seen right away and therefor can create some issues with cracks on the walls and problems with the roof. The foundation problems that can occur in training are more with performance issues or with injuries that occur from neglecting this important building process.
1.) The cardiovascular structure of your body is the network of VEINS, ARTERIES and most important CAPILLARIES. The capillaries are the only part of the cardiovascular structure that you have any control over. When working out in a controlled pace, you can build the capillary beds deeper into the muscles, which allow you to feed the muscles better. As you build a base of working out and start to increase your training you have to maintain control in your longer workouts. Increasing your training from zero to getting going a few hours a week is BASE training, not over training to 15+ hours a week. So coming off the few months where you might have lowered your training hours (OFF-SEASON), the base period is the few months where you start picking things up. There can be a good mixture of intensities with slow, medium and fast pacing but the majority of the longer workouts needs to be done at a heart rate in the AEROBIC ONE zone (about 75% of the workouts).
2.) The technique you use when training in the base period of the season is important because you can get your muscles to to get stronger with good technique. Functional training with the sports of swimming, cycling and running with drills is the best way to do this. Also keeping control when muscles start to fatigue in training. You can also allow the body to build the cardio part better if the muscles get stronger, so they do go hand in hand with one another. Muscles endurance is build with proper technique and when neglected, athletes get through the workouts without building strength. Training with bad technique will cause smaller muscles to help out during fatigue and therefor push these smaller muscles to get injured (tendons, ligaments strains are the main ones to go first).
The FRAMEWORK is the next step.... This is the part of building a house that sets the shape and structure of what holds everything up. With this in mind, you need to make CORE and STRETCHING the framework for all your training. You need to keep your muscles in good shape to keep yourself consistent in working out. Once again, when building a house this is something you don't see everyday but it is an internal structure that is very important. You can keep a good maintenance to stretching and core work with just a few hours a week, but can easily be missed if you get caught up in just the training. Listen to your body when working out and make sure that you take care of any issues before they become a bigger problem.
The WALLS and the ROOF of a house is what everyone sees and therefor it is the cosmetic part of building a house... so in training, these are the actual workouts you do from day to day and what everyone sees. You want to make sure that you are CONSISTENT first and that you are getting something special every time you do one. Maximizing your training time is key for busy professionals like yourselves. Plan on having a THEME or PURPOSE to every workout so that you have a stronger reason to get through it and perform well. Technique and Form can be a good theme to some of these workouts. Simply using some workouts as filler hours and having fun may be a great purpose in itself. Also, not putting too much pressure to perform very intensely at every workout is great for getting more out of the training. Sometimes when you have a long day at work or you have mental distraction keeping you from performing strong will make you dread the workout and therefore a great reason to have purpose or theme to training.
As you start your season or your periodization to your specific race, think of it as building a house. The more important you make the FOUNDATION and the FRAMEWORK the more you'll get out of the rest of the building process with less setbacks and bigger success. Some of you are building a beautiful house right now, so we'll be looking forward to seeing the end product in a few months! I'm in the process of building a "lake house" as there are a few of us heading to Ironman Coeur D' Alene... : )
See you at practice!