Winter Triathlon Training

by Garry
(Dublin, Ireland)

Any tips for winter training especially when the dark nights come in?

Intelligent Triathlon Training (Mark) replies:

Getting good training sessions in during the winter when the weather may be bad or the time you can get out in the daylight is limited can be hard.

There are however things you can do to maximize your triathlon training during the winter.

In general, try to schedule in days where you can do long rides and runs. These might be days off work, weekends, bank holidays etc. These sessions are essential parts of training to improve endurance.

Cycling

Personally I prefer a good set of lights and to get out on the roads rather than ride the turbo.
But if you don’t live in an area where that is viable, or you don’t feel safe, get a good turbo or preferably a set of rollers and get ready to sweat a little!

There are some really good roller options available now, that enable you to change resistance on the move. Unlike the old roller options these are much safer for novices to ride, and have the added benefit of helping to teach you stability and control.

As the bike is not fixed, you have to control it, including making it go in a straight line. This simple act of balancing the bike enables you to work the control muscles far more effectively than sitting on a fixed static bike. This means that inefficient movements like bobbing and excessive rocking are identified and you can correct them.

When you are happy just riding on the rollers, you are ready for some action!

There are a million and one turbo sessions out there, and everyone has their favorite, or a ‘beast’ session.

The key to a good indoor session is that it relates to something you want to improve in your fitness and is part of a longer term plan.

So if you want to work on your Intermediate Endurance (Lactate Threshold 1) then doing lots of really high intensity efforts isn’t going to solve your problem.

Conversely if you want to work on VO2max, then you need to understand how to make that session work for you. Then it is down to the maths, i.e. an LT1 session could be 10 minute reps at a LT1 intensity with a 3:1 work to rest ratio, where the rest is still active, repeated 3 – 6 times.

You can progress this over a number of weeks by increasing rep duration, or number of reps.

You can vary this by doing it with high resistance, and a lower gear, or by using a low resitance and a bigger gear. You will find one is easier than the other, despite heart rate or power being similar!

Don’t over do the indoor bike sessions, remember to get outside!

For more ideas of turbo sessions have a look at our sprint and Olympic distance training plans as these include some turbo options.

Running

Running is less problematic; the roads aren’t quite as dangerous, unless you pass through the wrong neighborhoods, tracks and clubs are usually safe places as well. You aren’t out in the cold for as long or going as fast, so you shouldn’t get cold as easily. Just get some good kit that keeps you warm and dry regardless of the conditions.

Your plan is again key, and your running needs to fit with your bike programme. If you have heavily modified that to get around the dark nights then you will need to look at your run programme to ensure it still works with your bike program.

In general I would still suggest running outside as much as is possible. Obviously running on a treadmill indoors is an option. This can be good for controlling speed if you either have a tendency to run too fast on your easy runs or struggle to push yourself on harder sessions.

However some people are more injury prone on treadmills, and also remember that your local gym may not calibrate the speed regularly and so you might not be running at the pace you think you are! Also it is good to get used to controlling your running speed yourself rather than relying on the treadmill.

Unless there is a good reason (and sometime there is) October – February is about building up the basic endurance, and this involves a lot of long, easy running. If you have limited time and trying to short-cut this…..well if you have read the pages on training you will know I don’t really like short cuts!

If however you are short for time, then you are still looking to boost your basic low intensity endurance (otherwise know as LT1).

Shorter sessions you could use for this include sustained periods of running just over that intensity, followed by a period just under.

There are hundreds of ways people can do this, and one of my favourites is to make it random, otherwise known as Fartlek (speed-play).

This is a really good session to do if you are running with other runners of similar ability. Set the rules i.e. not too fast (meet the needs of the session) then each take the lead for a section.

Vary the speed above and below LT1, with varying durations of each. Try to use mixed terrain on these sessions as well, and really ensure you maintain the intensity on the downhills, rather than maintaining the speed. Downhill running is great for you!

If you like more structure then try this session (you can adjust the times according to your training requirements):


  • 10 min above LT1,

  • 5 min below,

  • 8 min above,

  • 4 min below etc.


You can flip this and have the longer section as ‘below’ if you want an easier session or this type of training is new. This is all continuous, no rest.

So to summarise, there are various options for shortening bike and run sessions to still get effective training during the winter, but there is no real substitute for getting outside and putting the miles in!

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