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This program is intended for individuals who want to participate in a Sprint or Olympic triathlon.
Click here to download the program: TPT Triathlon Training 8 Week Program
“I couldn’t make my times” is a common response I heard after asking fellow triathletes about their swim workouts. I decided to investigate why this was happening. My conclusion: Triathletes only have one speed because they do not understand the concept of balancing pace and rest.
I’ve watched many triathletes swim as hard as possible and achieve the same pace for 100m as they would for 400ms. This would be like Usain Bolt running the same pace for a 100m as he would for 400m!
Gold Standard: The 400m Time Trial
Using the 400m distance as a swimming time trial has been around for decades. This distance, although not routinely used in triathlon, is useful because it is a close representation of V02max. V02max is the maximal ability of the body to use oxygen by the muscles. The 400m swim test was described as the ‘gold standard’ for estimating maximal aerobic speed.
After swimming the 400m time trial you can predict two other intensities that are useful for improving overall swim speed. The first intensity is the lactate threshold, or, also called maximal lactate steady state (MLSS). The second intensity is the anaerobic threshold (AeT).
MLSS is defined as the highest speed that can be maintained with a consistent appearance and disappearance of lactate in the blood. Studies have shown that MLSS occurs after swimming as hard as possible for about 60 minutes or, about 85% of V02 pace.
Between V02 and MLSS is the AeT. Research shows that trained swimmers can sustain this pace for about 30 minutes, or 92% of V02 pace. Basically swimming at this intensity is not as hard as V02 but harder than MLSS.
Below is an example of how to calculate the MLSS, AeT, and V02 paces based on finishing time from the 400m time trial.
EXAMPLE: Athlete A swims 6 minutes for a 400m time trial.
V02 pace = 1:30min/100m
AeT pace = 1:37min/100m
MLSS pace = 1:43min/100m
To calculate the AeT pace, take the V02 pace and add 8% to it:
1:30 + (1:30 * 0.08) = 1:37
With these 3 intervals you can develop top end speed (V02), endurance (AeT) and understand your recovery speed (MLSS).
I’m often asked about nutrition and how an athlete can optimize consumption. I’ll try to explain a simple and effective strategy I use (and recommend).
Step 1: Learn what a calorie is.
Step 2: Learn how to count calories.
Step 3: Find out how much calories are in something.
Knowing how much calories are in a piece of food is tricky. Luckily, there are plenty of calorie counting APPs for your smart phone that have huge libraries so you do not have to remember these details.
Step 4: Estimate how much energy you need to live and how many calories you burn during each workout (see my table below). You can actually measure how many calories you need per day but its expensive (and time consuming!).
Here’s table that summarizes the approximate amount of calories required for the size of person and workout time per hour.
|Size||Daily Calories Required||Workout Calories Per Hour|
|Small female||1400-1600||Easy 200/Hard 500|
|Small male/medium female||1600-1800||Easy 300/Hard 600|
|Large female/medium male||1800-2000||Easy 400/Hard 700|
|Large Male||2000-2200||Easy 450/Hard 900|
Example (let’s use me)
I would fall under the small male size, so I require about 1800 calories to maintain my body mass each day. Let’s say, I go for an easy 1 hour run and then later in the day I go for a hard 1 hour swim. My daily calories to maintain my body weight would be about 1800+300+600=2700.
So how much food is 2700 calories? An example: A peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread is about 500 calories. Basically, if I ate 5.5 of these sandwiches I’d meet my daily caloric intake.
The trick with knowing how many calories you need (if you followed my example) is finding out how much energy is in something! Try downloading an APP and tracking your calories for a day or two. Find out if you’re running a surplus (so excess calories) or a deficit (not enough calories).
A training zone is created based on the energy system fueling your muscle.
Each training zone uses heart rate and speed data to help you exercise at the right intensity.
Our body uses food (chemical energy) to create movement (mechanical energy)
Unlike a car that burns the same fuel source (gas); our muscles require different energy sources depending on the intensity and duration.
Endurance athletes need to care about three energy sources: fat, lactate, and carbohydrates.
Fat is the largest energy system in our body. For example, a 150lb male who is 10% body fat has over 50,000 calories of energy stored in their body.
Fat can be thought of as the ‘easy intensity fuel’ and is the primary energy source for endurance events (Ironman, marathon, Tour de France).
Carbohydrates are reserved for ‘hard intensity’. Most people only have 2,000-2,500 calories (or about 30 minutes) of this energy stored in their body.
Sandwiched between fat and carbohydrates is lactate. Lactate is an energy source but is inefficiently used by the body. Training at this intensity is typically known as ‘junk miles’ because it’s too hard to allow for optimal fat usage and too easy for the body to effectively use carbohydrates.
Most athletes that spend a large majority of time training their lactate energy system experience a constant circle: they never get faster and are often injured. Training above and below the lactate energy system is critical for performance increases!
Did you ever wonder: what does ‘hard’ really mean? And, what does easy really mean?
Exercising too easy on hard days and conversely, exercising too hard on easy days is far too common and detrimental to your performance.
Training should not be complicated.
Lactate testing identifies how hard the muscle is working based on the amount of lactate present in the blood.
The results from the lactate test provide training zones so you will know exactly what hard and easy intensity really means.
I thought this was a neat article (and study) that explained when to use active, so moving around, or passive, standing rest, after an interval. The basic findings were if an interval is short, use passive recovery. If the interval is long in duration then use active recovery.
How can you apply this to your training?
Swim: Use active recovery when swimming hard repeats of 200m or longer distance intervals
Bike: Use active recovery for climbs or intervals lasting 3K (5 minutes) or longer
Run: Use active recovery for 800m or longer distance repeats