by Rich Strauss, Endurance Nation
In Part I we discussed your role as The Coach. As a typical triathlete, this is the role you’re likely most familiar with, as you search for the latest and greatest training secrets to make you faster. But as your self-coaching instructor, I want you to take a step back and consider your true, more important role: The Time Investment Manager.
As an adult living and working in the real world, you know that TIME is your most precious commodity. You can make more money, you can buy more stuff, but there is only so much of your time to go around and, when you spend it, it’s gone forever. From this simple fact we draw three time investment principles:
Time Investment Principle #1: Any discussion of HOW to train must begin with a discussion of how much time do you have available to train.
Triathlon is culturally predisposed to frame most training discussions within the context of training volume: how much, how far, how long should I train. We also look to two primary sources for training advice: the former Pro Turned Coaching Guru, or the Local Fast Guy. But before you listen to the advice of either, ask yourself one question: “does this person’s lifestyle, and resultant training time available, closely resemble my own?”
The Former Pro: his job was to train, eat, and sleep…and nothing more, creating the ability to train 30 or more hours per week. If that former pro can’t step back from that perspective and frame the training discussion within YOUR constraints — busy age grouper with a fixed amount of time to devote to training — we advise you to significantly discount or ignore their training advice. Quite simply, what worked for him worked because he could do a LOT of it and recover from it. Your life conditions are very different so your training solution must be different.
The Local Fast Guy: again, ask yourself if their life conditions resemble yours. If yes, they may be a valuable learning resource for you. But if they are single, self-employed, no kids, with nearly limitless time to train during the week and on the weekends, and they are not able to frame their advice within your different life conditions, you should discount their advice as well.
Our coaching advice in Part I was framed within the constraints we’ve observed across thousands of age groupers just like you.
Time Investment Principle #2: What is Your Return on Investment (ROI) on Race Day for Every Training and Admin Minute (and Dollar) Invested?
So, your time is limited and we’ve told you to discount much of the advice you’ve been told to listen to…what are you left with? The same principle you likely use to make many decisions in your real life! Triathlon should be no different!
Before you ride 6hrs on a Sunday, or invest 2hrs of training and admin time in a 1hr master’s swim session or weightroom visit, or drop $$$$ on a carbon aero widget, just ask yourself “what is this time or money investment going to get me on race day?” Compare ROI’s between investment choices and make good decisions.
So how should you invest your limited training time and triathlon budget? In our experience, as professional Ironman® coaches coaching a team of age groupers just like you:
High ROI Investments:
- 45-90 minutes of hard interval training per week, on the bike.
- Well planned tempo paced running intervals
- Running frequency
- 1-on-1 swim lessons, especially with underwater video
- Training with pace (ie, purchasing a GPS or training on a measured run course)
- Aero helmet
- Training with power
- Bike fit
Low ROI Investments
- Weight training
- Swimming year round
- Race wheels, especially a rear disk
- Easy cycling volume
- LSD running, to the exclusion of tempo work
Some of these likely make sense to you. Some may have you saying “WHAAA…..?” For more detail we recommend you take our Rethinking the Off Season virtual seminar.
Time Investment Principle #3: Training Time Cost is Variable Across the Season
Your primary training input is time: time on the bike, time packing a bag, driving to the pool, swimming, showering, etc. We use Principles 1 and 2 to help us decide how and where to apply these time inputs across our training week. But the last missing piece is to understand that not all time is created equal. Our observation is that your time can be more or less expensive, depending on the time of year and your lifestyle constraints. Let’s discuss two typical examples:
Inexpensive Time: 3.5hr Saturday ride in June.
The sun rises at 5am. You can be on the bike by 5:30 am and home by 9:00 am, in time to shower, put your mom/dad hat on and be a responsible human being for the rest of day. You can do that ride in the sun, with your friends, adding a valuable social component to your training. Your goal race, Mont Tremblant or an August half Ironman® is about 8-10 weeks away so this investment in June makes sense to all parties involved, especially your family!
Expensive Time: 3.5hr trainer ride in December
You’ve asked your family and lifestyle to accommodate your crazy triathlon habit all year. You’ve likely incurred some Spousal Approval Unit (SAU) costs in the process. You’ve also committed a large portion of own headspace, for months at a time, to thinking about, motivating yourself, and strategerizing this triathlon game.
Now it’s 5:30am in December, in Chicago, 32 degrees out (heatwave) and you swing your leg over your bike on the drainer. You cast your head forward to your A-race, Ironman® Wisconsin in September, do the math on how many similar trainer rides you have on the calendar before your bike touches the pavement again and make a note to hide the gun from yourself and your family for fear that someone might use it…
Same ride, same time investment, but with dramatically different cost considerations.
We can share many stories of athletes who’ve come to us for advice, after being sentenced to 18hr training weeks, or 4hr Zone 1 base building trainer rides in February for an Ironman® in September. In our opinion, these coaches or Off Season training plans blindly apply the cultural training knowledge of the sport without considering these three deeper principles above.
So, let’s combine our discussions from Part I and Part II to create our Off Season training guidance for you:
- The Off Season is best time of the year to make yourself significantly faster:
- A moderate amount of get-faster training will make you significantly faster on race day (ie, high ROI)
- There is no competing requirement to also build endurance for your goal race distance. You can separate FAST from FAR, freeing up recovery resources to make you much, much faster.
- Your Off Season training should be extremely low volume:
- Off Season training time is more expensive than In Season time, demanding you spend less of it on high ROI activities.
- As an age grouper with limited time available, low volume in the Off Season is just the right thing to do, for your head, your lifestyle, and your family.