Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finding the right training plan

When I began training for triathlons in 2007, my only training aids were a bright yellow Walkman, a basic sports watch and the sometimes company of my daughters in a double jogging stroller. 

The Walkman was eventually replaced by an iPod shuffle, a Garmin GPS watch took up residence on my wrist, and the jogging stroller now collects dust in the basement. But with my favorite tunes uploaded onto a tiny, matchbox-sized device and my new watch delivering stats on pace, distance, calories and max speed, I felt like my training had been elevated to a whole new level. I didn’t feel the need to engage in heart rate training, though my Garmin is equipped for it, or hire a coach or personal trainer.

Then, in 2011, my husband and I decided to train for an Ironman—a 140.6-mile race comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run—and I knew I’d need a structured, detailed plan to help guide me through the rigors of training for an endurance event of this magnitude. So, on the recommendation of a friend who’d already completed two Ironman races, I purchased Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-By-Week Training Guide by Matt Fitzgerald, which includes plans, scheduling tips, and workout goals for triathletes of all levels. The book contains 12 to 24-week training plans for all four triathlon distances—sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman, and Ironman—ranging from Level 1 for beginners to Level 10 for elite athletes or those hoping to be podium contenders.  

According to the book, “as you move up from Level 1, the number of weekly workouts increases, as do the average workout durations, the total weekly training volume, and the amount of high-intensity training.”

Each training plan is divided into three equal segments: Base Phase, Build Phase, and Peak Phase, and the book features detailed descriptions of every workout and training level. Off-season training plans, strength exercises and recommended stretches also are included.

Initially, I purchased the book as a resource for Ironman training but found it so beneficial for scheduling workouts and planning training sessions that I now refer to it on a regular basis for all levels of triathlon training.

There is a variety of training plans available online and in hard copy, complimentary and for purchase, for triathletes as well as for athletes with a single-sport focus. The key is to research several plans until you find the one that is right for you. 

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