If You Only Had 8 Hours To Train, What Should You Do?
In this blog Coach Philip gives us his suggestions on where he would spend time focusing on when coaching an athlete who "only" has 8 hours to train per week. Have a look at this insightful breakdown of training effort and maybe you will learn something about prioritising your own training!
Admittedly, eight hours is actually quite a good block of training. There is the opportunity to do a fairly large load of training while also allowing for flexibility within the structure of your week. For example, this could consist of a rest day Monday, and then one hour in the morning and evening every day until Friday. Then have the weekend off to enjoy time with your family. Alternatively, you could put some more quality sessions at the weekend and train only one hour per day through the week.
Does it matter? Well yes and no! However, the key factor is consistency. You are better off committing to 6 hours and excelling at it than struggling to make 8 hours of training and losing your consistency.
My first significant point of advice to an athlete with only 8 hours to train would be that generally, you should forget about doing long distance racing at a competitive level. If you are fairly fast already, and could do some big weekends or training weeks away, then you could contemplate pursuing long course racing, but for the majority of people 8 hours per week is not sufficient to be competitive over the long course distance. This is where having a coach can make a big difference as a coach can make sure you are as efficient as you can be with your training – there is no space for wasted or inefficiently used training time. However, this option would certainly be the exception rather than the rule! If you are going to do something, do something well.
How Would You Break The Training Down?
I would look at the following approximate ratio of training:
- 1 hour of S&C
- 30 mins of core and stretching
- 2 x 45min swim session per week
- 3 hours of cycling
- 2 hours of running
- Or go single discipline! (Either weekly or longer term!)
Why Have You Broken Things Down Like That?
Most people are likely to pick up injuries if they are not careful. Strength and Conditioning is so important to help keep you injury free and therefore consistent in training, so much so that it should be very prominent in your training diary. This is different to simple core work or stretching (which is also very important!). Strength and conditioning is helping your body manage load. Furthermore, a lot of triathletes can benefit from doing either simple physio-like exercises or more common "strength and conditioning" to ensure they remain stable and strong as well as efficient in their movements. Sometimes reiterating the basics can be some of the best training movements they can do! Core work should be something all athletes do a lot of. This is more than just sit ups but can be done quickly before or at the end of sessions. Stretching or general rehab is usually the first thing dropped by time-stretched athletes. However, if you aren't looking after your body and your trying to do as much training as you can in a short space of time, you are only asking for trouble. Look after yourself!
For swimming we need to look at frequency. Realistically, getting to the pool, unless you live or work beside one, will nearly always take the same amount of time to get ready/prepare for as it does the actual session duration. Keeping the sessions to about 45 mins means you can complete a good main set lasting about 30 mins, which will see you through (in a time perspective) a slower sprint distance 750m swim all the way up to a faster middle distance (1900m) swim - which covers most race distances. You can do these as straight steady swims, interval sessions, technical sessions, open water style or actual open water sessions – there are many different choices!
Cycling is always going to be tough to fit in if you don't jump on a turbo or have great weather – the time to get changed takes a lot of your time, as can getting your bike out of an apartment or flat. The suggested three hours (about 1/3 of your total training volume) is indicative of your race. (Very) generally speaking the bike will take about half of your race total time. Of the 6.5 hours training time that you have remaining (i.e. not S&C), about half of it is going to be on the bike. This can be broken down as a couple of longer rides in the base phase and more intensive, interval, hill or threshold based sessions as you build the training load up in the spring. This gives us a lot of versatility through the week – it may be 2 x 1.5 hour longer sessions, or more shorter, intensive ones. There are many options here. However, remember the point that the preparation time can eat into your total time – so the fewer sessions there are, the more time you have to spend on training!
Running can be broken up in any way you need. People have a love or hate relationship with running. Depending what you have would change where the focus is placed. Again you can really mix this up. I would look at variance within the sessions, maybe have one long, steady run every couple of weeks, but invariably I'd look to keep it interesting with threshold runs, hill repeats and Fartlek sessions making regular appearances throughout your weekly schedule. If there was a track near you, I would suggest heading down there, as it keeps the session focused and you can build on each week and see how you are progressing!
Why Become "Single"?
Sometimes life gets in the way. Great multisport athletes may simply run out of time to do all three sports to the level they want to do. Instead, they cut out one or two of the sports and specialise for a bit. Though this may be considered a step backwards, you could work on your weaknesses and ensure that when you come back to triathlon, you are a strong, robust athlete. Working in one sport almost certainly offers you more time to reach higher levels of success so this should always be considered an option for the time-pressed athlete.
This doesn't mean you can't race a triathlon from single sport training it just means you have to accept the likely outcome.
Equally, why not have different focuses each week? Have a rolling three week block of:
- Slight Swim Focus
- Slight Bike Focus
- Slight Run Focus (Or S&C)
Perhaps this could be as simple as having a "joker" session that changes each week to tip the balance. Everything else stays the same but the "joker" session changes. For example, your "joker" session may mean you do an extra swim session the first week, a bike the second and a run the third. The "joker" session allows you to put a bit more emphasis on one discipline to have an additional training effect that you wouldn't normally have due to time constraints and trying to keep things balanced. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that you will slightly detrain in the other areas, but that can be scheduled in as planned recovery as you put your focusses elsewhere.
Whatever you choose to do, looking at limited time options and finding efficient uses of your time can be very rewarding. There is an old saying. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. Triathletes, in my experience, are usually at the pinnacle of the busiest people!
Lastly, don't forget: Have fun!