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Triathlon training

I travelled back to the UK this weekend to act as supporter to my brother who was taking part in his first ironman triathlon. I was also his S&C coach in the leadup, an experience that has left me with probably more questions in my mind than firm answers.

He’s completed a 70.3 before that I coached him for and I know triathlon relatively well having done quite a bit of gait analysis with athletes of various levels in my previous role with Profeet. I’ve spoken to the athletes and coaches about the sport, it’s cultures and it’s requirements and have picked up quite a lot of information from them.

The Ironman event itself is incredibly tough. It’s a 2.4mile open water swim, 112mile bike ride and a marathon to finish. My brother’s aim was a sub 12 hour completion (he did 11hrs 45min, all his hard work paid off, good job bro!). Obviously you have a big nutritional needs over that time frame. There are the technical elements, particularly to the swim and run, that need to be trained. Then you have the mobility and strength components. What you also have though is the culture within the sport itself. A lot of the talks I had with athletes, coaches and reading I did around the sport seemed to revolve predominantly around the volume of training.

This is where most of my questions came up. Advice around doing 8/10/12 hour days of any intensity prior to the event prior to the event was commonplace. Is that necessary? Is there some psychological value to it? What are the physiological adaptations you’re going to get from that versus 2/3/4 hours? Why do you need to train swim, bike and run every week? How much training is enough?

In the 5-6 weeks leading up to the race, because of some calf issues, the longest run my brother did was 20 minutes and he still managed a 3hr45min marathon time. Again, how much training is enough? I like experimenting with my brother. In October he did a marathon where the longest run he did in the lead up to it was 11 miles and he did 3hr30min. How much training is enough?

You’d like the athlete to experience training with fatigue, is it better to do that through density rather than volume with double session days or concentrated training doses? How many people competing completed mobility and strength work? Did it go in on top of the volume or replace other sessions? What’s the reduction in impact if you if you do the former? What if we had focused a little more on volume? Would he have completed it even quicker? Was I mistaken to have been more focused on intensity?

Like I said, lots of questions. Feel free to answer them.

Neil Welch

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