Training article: Changing things up
By Alun Woodward – ironguides coach – UK
We are heading to the end of the season now with only a few big races remaining for most athletes. This is a hard time of year to maintain hard training as both the body and brain are fatigued not only from training but the extra demands that come with racing. Another factor we don’t really link with the decreased motivation is the changing of seasons, we all go through a boost in motivation in spring as the days get longer and warmer but tend to blame other factors when the reverse happens in Autumn.
We see the same things happen to all athletes at this time of year and we can plan to change training protocols or add in elements to the training to make sure motivation is maintained and form continues to rise for important races.
Changing location of sessions is one big thing we can do to refresh the mind and make training more exciting again.
Moving a swim session from the pool to open water is a very easy way to do this, this time of year the open water should be at its warmest as the sun has been warming lakes and oceans all summer so the water should be inviting and will certanly provide a different and more specific session to pool swimming. Head to the open water and you can do the same session style as in the pool by simply converting 50m into say 30 strokes and using this to convert all distances into strokes.
On the bike think about changing your long ride from a TT bike session to a mountain bike session, this will give you access to new routes as you can vary both riding on road and trails, i’m sure many of you have been out riding and come across trails going off the road, now you can turn off and go explore. Not only does this give you an opportunity to explore it also offers a great way to develop riding technique. Riding on loose ground with a mountain bike requires a good smooth pedal action applying equal power all through the pedal stroke, if we only tend to push down and pull up what you will find is the wheels just spin and you stop moving. A few weeks of this work and you will notice a big difference in your riding on the road!!
An added benefit of mountain bike riding over road is that slower speeds for the same effort mean you do not suffer so much in the cooler weather. Riding can be unpleasant in the cold and wet on a road bike but quite enjoyable and most certainly warmer on the mountain bike.
Running can become very monotonous especially with lots of intervals in your program but try taking the intervals to a new environment to freshen your mind – head to a forested are or country park and try to find a loop that approximates your interval length – now take a number of weeks where you perform intervals on the new loop with no watch – you know distance is right so just get out and run to perceived effort and enjoy the new environment. You will be surprised what a month of this style of running will do to your performance level and motivation.
Not only can we change elements of training to get a boost to our performance we can also make a change to the way we race. Going into a race with a different goal and mindset can lead to a very different outcome and breakthrough performances.
Change up your race plan and see what happens, for example instead of keeping things steady and consistent all day try looking at one of the sports and really pushing the effort above your normal levels and just seen at happens. For example if you see yourself as a strong runner and have always ridden conservatively to save energy for the run you could look to really push the bike to the point you think no way you will be able to run and just see what happens when you get off the bike, in my experience many runners really underestimate how hard they can push the bike and still be able to run.
Another classic change would be if your a good swimmer who normally leads from the front try holding back in the pack and getting out of the water fresh for the bike, you may find you swim 30s or so slower only despite the effort being much less than normal and as a result are able to access much more power on the bike and also run better off the bike. A great expanse of this tactic leading to a breakthrough was when Pete Jakob’s won Kona in 2012, Pete is arguably the best swimmer in the sport and had led the swim out at Kona with Andy Potts for several years holding a 30s plus advantage on the rest of the field. Pete has always then lost time on the bike and had a great run to run back into contention but not quite win the race. In 2012 Pete held back on the swim and then had a much stronger ride not only staying with the lead group but actually showing as one of the strongest riders towards the end of the bike and this put himself in a winning position heading into the run which he went on to dominate. So a small change in tactic led to a very big breakthrough!
If your feeling motivation slipping and your not performing as you want then take note of the changes above and see how they can fit into your training program, small changes especially just changing scenery can have a huge impact on your mental and physical well being. This could be all you need to take on your competition and head into winter with a big performance in your final race! A strong finish to the year can bode well for a successful winter raining program and an even better season to follow.
Enjoy your training
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