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Some of the True secrets of the top Pros in Triathlon

By Roch Frey

I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with several talented triathletes over the past few years. Two of these athletes are currently at the top of there sport. Heather Fuhr and Peter Reid, both Ironman Champions, have been training with me over the past several years. I am constantly asked what type of workouts I have setup for them to enable each to reach such high levels of athleticism. Obviously I can not tell you there training schedule day by day, but I have narrowed it down to three important aspects, on top of the two of them having each being born with a huge amount of talent. Proper periodization, consistency and to some point the application of scientific training methods while still listening to there own senses are helping them reach that first place podium.

Periodization

Periodization is the training of different systems during different times of the year. The start of the year should start with the base phase which consists of longer aerobic workouts emphasizing the development of the aerobic system and also emphasizing technique in all three sports. Peter loves to ride long miles alone in the rain and snow of Vancouver Island. Heather prefers the warmer climate and for that reason migrated south from Canada to San Diego to allow her to easily accomplish the long base miles on the bike, in the pool and running. Weight training is key during this phase of training. Gains in Strength are best made during the base phase as the intensity of training is low and more energy can be put into the weight room sessions. This is sometimes the hardest phase. Longer aerobic low intensity workouts often make people ask themselves if the sessions are doing them any good. They may then tend to start to train harder. Heather and peter religiously train at low to moderate intensity during this phase as they know that the bigger the base, the better they will perform come race season. As for technique they both perform countless drills in the pool working on body position, strides and accelerations working on running form and spinning drills working on becoming efficient on the bike at high cadences.

The second training phase which Heather and Peter follow is the pre-competitive phase. After a strong base is developed they can then handle the harder longer sessions at about 80-90% of there max heart rate. These training sessions include one turbo training ride a week. A typical workout consists of a 15 min warm-up followed by 6x 30 sec of fast spinning and 30 sec easy then on to a main set of 12/ 10/ 8 minutes all at 80-90% of their max with 3-5 min spin recovery between. Performing these sessions early in the year would set them up for and injury and failure in the later part of the season. They are nearing the end of their time in the weight room with a power phase emphasizing pure strength lifting heavier weights of fewer reps and sets.

The third phase is the competitive phase. Peter and Heather are now into their race season and are juggling training, racing and sponsorship obligations. They maintain one longer aerobic training session in each sport per week while there one hard session in each sport is shorter and faster. Rather than 8-12 minute intervals during there turbo training session they may do 6x 3 min at 85-95% max heart rate but with a longer rest between of 3-4 minutes. These sessions help them tap their top end speed for all races. Also in the competitive phase are tapers. Tapering is the gradual reduction in duration and intensity the few weeks before an important race allowing your body to become rested and ready to perform at its best. Heather seams to need more rest than Peter to perform at top level.

The final phase, the recovery, is also a hard phase to properly perform. It is not hard in the sense of training, but most athletes in all sports have trouble taking time off at the end of the season to allow there bodies to heal and recover both physically and mentally. Heather and Peter have had successful season after season because they know the benefits off time. They both take 2-3 weeks off completely from all training at the end of the season and then train very lightly for another 3-6 weeks before starting back into the base phase. You have to get out of shape after the end of the season in order to get back into better shape the following season.

Consistency

Consistency is another key ingredient to Heather and Peters success in the sport of Triathlon. They both are able to dedicate 100% of their time to training and with that do it properly. For a two to four week period they will slowly increase the duration and/or intensity of their sessions followed by a recovery week of shorter easier workouts. These small macro phases of training performed consistently throughout the year allow them to properly recover after hard and long weeks of training. To many athletes train great for one to two months only to get sick or injured and are then forced to take that time off to recover. Its not how much you did last week that counts, but how consistent you have been training over the past few months. Together with Heather and Peter we plan their weeks of building followed by an easy recovery week.

Heart rate monitor

Thirdly, the use of a heart rate monitor to properly gauge their training intensities has played a big roll in Heather and Peter's development into world class athletes. After proper testing to determine their Anaerobic Thresholds in each sport relative to their heart rates, Peter and Heather then take that information out with them during workouts. The heart rate monitor takes a lot of the guesswork out of training. It tells you exactly what intensity you are training at and what system you are training. They both still use their own cognitive intuition when using the heart rate monitor and listen to what there bodies are telling them. Some days they may be over fatigued from a hard session the day before and are unable to get the heart rate into a higher zone. Rather than pushing themselves to hard they listen to what their bodies are telling them and use perceived exertion levels and either shorten or decrease the intensity of the workout. They have both developed a keen sense of how their bodies are handling the stresses of training and in conjunction with a heart rate monitor perform there training sessions.

So as you can see there are not any magic training formulas in Peter and Heather's training logs. They are both extremely talented athletes that have used proven training principles, in conjunction with a coach to keep a watch-full eye, helping them both reach world class levels.

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