Question: How Should a Novice Train?
I just received the following question from Sean Lemecha which was posted in reference to my piece on Seasonal Summary. It’s a good question so rather than answer it where you might miss it I thought I’d bring it up front.
Q: Joe, those are some great questions to ask yourself. I just completed my first triathlon last month (Nation's Tri) and really look forward to jumping more into the fold next season with many more races. As a newbie/novice/beginner to the sport, what are some of the most important things I can be doing this winter to prepare for next season (after I have the answers to your questions above, of course)?
A: Sean, as mentioned in my Training Bible books, the most important abilities to work on in the Base period are also the ones that novices should also concentrate on for most of the first couple of years in the sport. They are…
• Aerobic Endurance. This is the ability to maintain a low to moderate intensity for a long time. Once this is fully developed the more advanced abilities (Muscular Endurance and Anaerobic Endurance) may be built on its foundation. To improve this ability do long, steady workouts in the heart rate, power or pace 2 zone. For triathletes aerobic endurance must be separately developed in each discipline. (To find a wealth of information on this topic do a Google search on “aerobic decoupling.”)
• Speed Skills. This is sometimes also called “economy.” It’s the ability to make the movements of the sport in way that doesn’t waste energy. Some of the components of this ability are posture, technique, flexibility, core stability, joint stability, and muscle recruitment. To improve this ability do frequent, short workouts in a particular sport with an emphasis on drills and skill development. Speed skill is a foundational ability for the advanced abilities of Anaerobic Endurance and Power.
• Force. This is the ability to overcome resistance. Having this ability well-developed means you can easily cope with hills, wind and strong water currents. To develop this ability lift weights or do other strength-building exercises, run and/or ride on hills, and swim with paddles or drag devices. Work bouts should be very short, as in a few seconds, and done at a very high effort to challenge the muscles. Force is a foundational ability for the advanced abilities of Muscular Endurance and Power.
• Muscular Endurance. ME is the combination of the Aerobic Endurance and Force abilities. After a few weeks of AE and F training you are ready to introduce a type of training in which you do long, steady intervals at a slightly higher effort, heart rate, power or pace (as a percentage of threshold being sure to stay below the threshold) than you did in AE training. These should be done with somewhat less force than in F training, which may mean using a bigger gear than usual on the bike, or by running or riding up low-gradient hills, or by swimming long sets with small paddles or minimal drag devices. The intervals are typically 6 minutes or longer with short recoveries (about one-fourth of the interval duration). ME training intensity will continue to increase into the Build period.
Once into the Build period (meaning you have about 12 weeks until your first A-priority race) training should increasingly take on the characteristics of the goal race. That means being certain to make both the durations and intensities of your workouts similar to those of the race. But that’s a whole other topic for another time.