by Cherie Gruenfeld December 05, 2016

The holidays are upon us.

We’ve just enjoyed turkey and pumpkin pie at the family Thanksgiving dinner and soon we’ll be celebrating the Christmas holidays and all the good food and spirits that entails.

Following all that fun, we’ll head into the new year, which we triathletes refer to as The 2017 race season. No doubt you’ve already signed up for your “A” race for the year. It’s an exciting time – thinking about this new goal and the journey that lies ahead.

So what happens next?

I suggest you take a very structured and well-planned approach to the year.

Pull Out the Calendar

This upcoming journey will conclude with your goal race.

Step One is to mark that date on your calendar. Step Two is to note in the calendar every important known date (personal, family, work, etc) that will affect your training and racing plans. There will, of course, be other things that will come up during the year, and these things can be added as you go along.

Plan to be in Peak Form, at the Right Time

Your focus should now be on planning to arrive at the start line of your “A” race in top form. To do this, develop a plan that includes the following critical training phases:

  1. Base - Aerobic endurance
  2. Build - Intensity and technique
  3. Peak – Race simulation
  4. Taper – Recover and prepare to race

The amount of time spent on each phase will depend on the individual athlete. A word of advice: Do not skimp on the Base phase. This is when you’ll be building the foundation upon which the rest of your training will depend. A strong base of aerobic endurance will support the upcoming intense training with less risk of injury. Block out these training phases in your calendar. Get help from a coach if you’re unsure about how to structure this.

Block out these training phases in your calendar. Get help from a coach if you’re unsure about how to structure this.What Happens in Training Races Happens in Goal Races

What Happens in Training Races Happens in Goal RacesCompeting in training races in preparation for your “A” race can be very helpful. Some benefits include:

Competing in training races in preparation for your “A” race can be very helpful. Some benefits include:

  • Providing benchmark data
  • Giving an opportunity to test gear, nutrition and racing strategies
  • Stimulating your competitive juices
  • Practicing handling race-day jitters
  • Working on mental strength
  • Teaching you to handle the mental and physical stress when you push through pain
  • Building confidence

Things to think about with training races include:

  1. How many races?  There’s no one answer to this question. Some may find that racing causes an emotional drain. If you find that you’re dreading another race and/or are having trouble recovering, this might indicate that there’s too much racing in the schedule.
    The distance of your races will also help determine how often you race.
  2. What distance?  Sprints and Olympics give the opportunity to focus on high intensity, building anaerobic strength. Make sure you’re ready for the intensity these races will require, by having built a strong aerobic foundation prior.
    A 70.3 (half IM) is a distance that sets up a good environment for simulating your “A” IM race and testing strategies. An added benefit is that it will build strength because you’ll be working at a higher intensity level than in your IM, due to the shorter distance.
  3. The timing of races?  It’s fine to go into a training race with no taper, making the race a key weekend workout, but be sure you plan for the necessary recovery afterward before getting back into your regular training routine.
    Training races should be considered a key training day. Therefore, place them in the schedule where you would put a key training session (i.e. brick; speed work)
  4. When NOT to race?  Plan for a block of time in the schedule where there’s no racing. This will assure a period of consistency where you can build volume and focus on adaptation.

You now have a written guide for the season: a structured, well-planned approach to the year. Of course, things will change. Stuff happens. But with a written plan, you’re far more able to manage unexpected events. The plan will raise your odds of staying on track, always moving forward towards that “A” goal.

Good luck

Cherie Gruenfeld
Cherie Gruenfeld


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