By Athlete Ambassador, Lesley Maisey
As a triathlete, a training week involves at a minimum 3 swims, 4 rides and 4 runs. The duration and intensity vary throughout the cycle but the frequency is fairly consistent. It would be ideal to focus on improving all three disciplines all the time but this is not the recommended approach. Understandable, because if you want to improve you have to be critical about where you currently are and I’m not sure my ego could take that kind of beating across all three disciplines.
>Within the three, at any given time there is one discipline that is better. Perhaps this is a natural strength or a favourite so more time is spent in that area. It is human nature to want to be comfortable and feel confident so for the triathlete this means gravitating to that one discipline a bit more than the others. This leads to an unbalanced athlete which is far from ideal. What is already a strength remains a strength to the detriment of the other two aspects of the sport.
I started my triathlon life as a runner. I worked hard at my swimming and biking and got them to a proficient level but with this shift in focus, my running performance suffered. I loved getting in the pool and would choose a ride over a run. I did not train the run enough but I was already a runner, so why bother? I didn’t think I needed to worry. I very quickly learned that a marathon on its own is nothing like the marathon after a hard 180km on a bike.
>So, how can I be equally strong in all three disciplines and have the confidence and ability to perform well from start to finish? The answer, single-sport focused blocks. This is where 12-16 weeks is spent focusing on one discipline, preferably the weakest one. I have chosen to focus on my current limiter, my running. A run-focused block means the run volume and intensity is increased; the swim and bike portions are still there but take a back seat.
Whichever sport is the focus, it is important to become like those who do just that sport. With a run focus, I needed to dress like a runner, talk like a runner, and run! So with that in mind I signed up for a local half marathon and left my triathlete self on the sidelines. My long Sunday runs were focused on running, not “running off the bike.” I started to track the distance and quality of my running, comparing weekly routes to the minute.
Early into this run block, I arrived to the start line of the Fall Classic. Surrounded by every brand of technical apparel, a colourful array of road shoes, and wrist devices beeping and chirping I started my dynamic warm up. I was not alone. There was a lot of leg swinging, butt kicking, and high-kneeing going on. I felt right at home! Then I became aware of the chatter around me. I heard about “carbo-loading” and “oh, I had X for breakfast for the first time today because my friend who ran a marathon said it worked for her…” or “I hope these shoes will be ok as I bought them yesterday…” And I realized that while I looked like a runner today and all I had in front of me was a run, I was a more evolved athlete. My journey into triathlon had taught me so many lessons that perhaps wouldn’t have been learned in this run only universe.
Regardless, I believe my run-focused training block will help improve upon a running weakness. I will focus on run mechanics, the long Sunday run, the tempo runs, intervals and sprints. My run focus will take me through to first of February. By that time it will be critical to focus the next 12 or so weeks on getting my bike and swim fitness back so I am ready for my first triathlon in June. Manipulating training stress is one way to impact change. Here’s to great running AND improved “running off the bike” in 2016.