Building Ironman Endurance
Finally after months of preparation the big ironman events of the summer are looming and its time for that final event preparation. Assuming you have followed your plan and trained consistently over the last few months you will be ready for the final endurance boost to take you into your race.
While of course you will have been doing endurance training in your plan i like to plan for special endurance blocks in the final weeks leading into the race, normally 2 blocks of between 3 and 4 days depending on the athlete and positioned in the final 6 weeks leading into your race. The vast majority of athletes can’t commit to spending hours training every weekend as thats too much time away from family and other commitments but planning 2 long weekend in an ironman build when friends and family know you will be unavailable does work out much better than not being around for weeks on end leading up to your race.
The purpose of these endurance blocks is twofold – both to build confidence and show the athlete they have nothing to fear from ironman and the other is to get a big boost to your endurance capacity leading into the race.
Also knowing these blocks are coming allows the athlete more confidence to follow their plan which may appear light on endurance work in the lead up – most of us believe we need to be training a lot more than we really do.
A lot of athletes like to have covered the distance before the event, this is very understandable but from a training perspective we do not want to cover a whole ironman in training during a day as it is just too much to recover from and would have a serious impact on training consistency, even the individual events in a day can be too much for some athletes so i like the endurance blocks as it gives a concentrated time period when the athletes will go above and beyond normal training for a short period with planned recovery following.
With the 2 endurance blocks i would typically look for an athlete to cover their normal weekly training load plus a little extra in just 3-4 days – not really looking at intensity in this period just spending the duration training! For example if your normally weekly training load is 12 hours then an endurance block may look to cover 12-16 hours over a 4 day period.
3-4 days works really well for most athletes, it is not long enough to overload the body to a point it will effect your regular training, it is a time frame that is acceptable to get away from work and family commitments, and also its a short enough period for most to tolerate the increased food lead that needs to accompany these blocks. Never forget its not always the training that is the struggle its fuelling enough to get through them and come through the other end in one piece – while almost everyone can get the work on very little calories the difference is if you do not load up enough you will take a lot longer to recover and return to normal – this is why a lot of athletes who go away for week long camps have great training but then take weeks before they return to normal training levels as their body is smoked from the volume of training one and the lack of calories consumed.
So in terms of confidence we want to address the main issues
* Cover the distance – 1 swim during the weekend should be at race distance or over.
- Cover the distance at least one – aim for a long ride of 180-200km on day 1
- Can you still run after a long TT effort – aim for a 120km ride with at least 80km of this at race pace and include some race pace run intervals off the bike – no more than 16km
- I will not have athletes ever run 42km in training – rather look to complete 42km during the 4 days
My aim is always to have athletes finish their endurance weekend knowing that they are going to have no issues covering the distance on race day – this is very calming for the athlete and also allows the focus to be maintained on training over the final weeks rather than stressing over their ability to complete the course.
There are 2 sides to endurance training i like to look at, the physiological adaptions that occur with endurance training sessions such as ATP development – this is a long slow process and is why we have our weekly long swim, ride and run in our programs – to get these adaptions does not require epic endurance sessions more just a case of regular endurance work anywhere from 60min to 2 hours on the swim and run and 2-4 hours on the bike.
The other side of endurance adaption is how the body burns fuel – this is very interesting and one of the main reasons the endurance weekends work so well for ironman performance. In order to perform well in ironman we need to move fast but efficiently – by this i mean we need to go as fast as we can while using as little energy as possible – to do this we need to burn fat efficiently as fuel and this is what the endurance weekends teach the body to do very well.
A good way to look at this is if your not at all fit and decide to just go out and ride 4 hours hard – its not going to be pretty – you will more than likely end up in pieces after 2-2.5 hours if you even make it that far. Now following this ride if you were to repeat one week later you would find you could go much further at the same intensity without any problems experienced in your first attempt. In one week you have not gained any measurable fitness – its too short of a time frame but your body will have learned how to use its fuel more efficiently to allow you to cover the distance.
This neat trick of the body can be used to our advantage with ironman training and is why we get such a huge endurance boosting effect form the endurance weekends. This adaption or learning from the body starts to disappear after 2-3 weeks to its important that we have an endurance weekend or at least 2 days of good volume in the final 2 weeks before the race!
As you enter your final weeks of preparation now is the time for your final endurance boost leading into your race – make the most of all your hard work with these focussed weekends and make sure your confidence is soaring for race day.
Enjoy your training
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