It’s all well and good to think we’ll always have plenty of time for our triathlon training. But life happens, and sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a week to get everything done. That’s why I have a few recommendations for best-bang-for-your-buck workouts when you don’t have 25, 20 or even 15 hours in a week to exercise.
I will give this caveat and say these recommendations don’t necessarily do well in two instances. The first instance is if you’re trying to hit a specific time to qualify for a big race, or you’re trying to do a BP in a race. The second instance is if you’re doing half Ironman, Ironman, UltraMan or other long distance races. These tips won’t apply to you.
These workouts work best for people doing sprint or Olympic distances, and for people who want to compete and do decently well but not their tippy-top best performance.
What these will do is make you stronger without taking a huge amount of time.
WORKOUT #1: A LONG BIKE
The number one best workout that you can do is a long bike once a week. You’re probably going to be worried about how you’ll have the endurance to swim for a long distance and run for a long distance. But, if you switch your focus to the bike, that ability to have long lasting endurance in your lungs — in your cardiovascular system — actually translates quite well to the run and the swim.
It’s actually hard to build that sort of endurance by training strictly the running and the swimming because you probably don’t want to be running or swimming for hours and hours on end. But with biking, it’s quite a bit easier to put in those heavy volumes and it actually helps your bike as well. In other words, doing long bike rides builds endurance for all three sports, your entire triathlon.
WORKOUT #2: HOUR AND A HALF BRICK WORKOUT
The second really good workout that you can do is an hour and a half long brick workout that is a little bit different than most brick workouts.
Instead of doing a big bike and then going onto a run, you do a bunch of mini bikes and a bunch of mini runs. The purpose of this workout is to get your legs used to rerouting the blood flow from your biking muscles into your running muscles very quickly. The more times you go from the bike to the run, the more ability your body is going to have to reroute that blood flow quickly.
The best way to do this is by setting up a trainer next to a treadmill and going back and forth. Maybe you do 10 minutes on the bike, five minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the bike, five minutes on the treadmill. Do that as many times as you can, going back and forth. (Of course, you can do this outside as well, as long as you can leave your bike in a safe place.)
In reality, there’s no specific way to do this. The only idea is to have that minute or two where you first hop on the treadmill after the bike and be as close to the bike as possible, so you can make that transition really quick. You don’t have to do this a whole ton, but if you have a tough time getting in brick workouts in general, make sure that you do this type of brick workout around five to six times before your race.
WORKOUT #3: TECHNIQUE FOCUSED SWIM
The third good workout that you can do if you’re a time crunched triathlete is a technique focused swim workout. This is where you don’t worry about how many yards you’re swimming or how long you’re going to swim that day, you strictly focus on your technique.
Now, specifically for first time or newer triathletes, what I find is that the struggle is getting comfortable in the water and learning how to float. What new triathletes often do is struggle and fight the water, so getting from one length of the pool to the other is a battle. If that’s the case and you have a tough time breathing, a tough time kicking, and you’re constantly out of breath and tired, this is a really good indication that you need to be focusing on your technique so you don’t have to go so hard out in the race.
A very good way to do this is learning how to float, learning to calm yourself down, and learning how to blow bubbles very consistently without struggle.
The result of this is that you’re going to be overall, a more confident swimmer and you could probably get away with just one of these technique focused swim workouts a week because you’re not building a ton of swim fitness, you’re just building swimming ability. In which case, you’re still going to be able to get faster, because you’re going to be more comfortable and get through the swim without struggling the whole time. A calm, confident swimmer is naturally a faster swimmer.
WORKOUT #4: COMMUTE TO WORK BY BIKE
The fourth best way to save some time in your triathlon training is to commute to work by bike. I actually commute to work by bike all year round (even in our Canadian winters) and what I found is that while it didn’t build a ton of top end fitness specifically for my bike, run, or swim, my overall fitness is better. Plus, when it took days off from specific training, as long as I commuted in by bike, I didn’t lose a ton of my fitness. What I recommend is that you commute work by bike and if you need to, take a little bit of a longer route so it takes you 30-40 minutes each way. If you’re doing this three, four, five times a week, it’s going to help you out because your overall level of fitness is going to be a lot better. And, it’s not like you’re tacking on an additional workout in a week, you’re actually just going to work because you go there anyway.
WORKOUT #5: TEMPO RUN AT RACE PACE
The fifth and final workout is a tempo run at your race pace.
The brick workout that we talked about accomplishes one of the challenges with triathlon running, and that’s getting your legs used to running after the bike. So, that’s already covered.
Next, you need to able to run a very long distance, and a long bike will help you with that. Check, another one off the list.
What about actually getting your body used to running at that race pace? That’s where the tempo run comes in. Tempo runs actually increase the ability for your internal engine to work harder while still not feeling like it’s that much tougher.
A tempo run is your goal pace, maybe just five to 15 seconds slower than your race pace and build up to the point that you’re going, say 70-80% of the distance, or even over the distance for the short runs, as you would in the race.
So, for example, for a sprint distance, do a tempo run that is anywhere from four to six or seven kilometers long. For an Olympic, look at six to nine or 10 kilometers long for a tempo run.
There you have it. Between those five workouts, those are probably some of the best bang for your buck workouts that you can do if you’re time crunched and you have a tough time getting in more than a few workouts a week. These will be the best return on your time spent.
As always, if you’d like to see the corresponding Triathlon Taren video on YouTube, click the link here.