How to fit your intervals into a group session

Are you ever torn between joining a group training session or going out on your own to do intervals that your coach might have prescribed? If so you don’t need to be. There are several ways you can do both.

Find a loop
Before your session starts you can share your goals for it.  If everyone has the same goal then you can simply do the same session. Providing the goals aren’t a million miles apart you can probably warm up together and then find a loop that you can all do and then regroup afterwards. This can work for running or cycling and seeing each other periodically might even add a little extra motivation for you.

Include some hills
The inclusion of climbing to a session will force a focus on muscular strength. If some of the group are planning to include some of this type of training you can throw in some hill repetitions for them while others stay on the flat. Again you can warm up together and regroup afterwards or several times depending on how many interval sets you’re doing.

Take it in turns
How about letting your fellow athletes decide on the focus and you just turn up and do it? This approach might not work for everyone if you have wildly different goals or abilities but it’s a great way of adding some variety without having to think! If you take it in turns you can always include your own focus when it’s your turn. Beforehand you would probably need to agree on the boundaries.

Joining a group session can be really motivating and often give you an extra boost you wouldn’t have otherwise received. If you swim with a club you already do his anyway so why not give it a go in your bike or run sessions and be social at the same time too? Please share how you keep group sessions focused but social.

Habits for the time crunched triathlete

The biggest challenge for many age groupers is fitting in training with a job and family commitments. Quite often I hear of athletes ‘giving up’ when their children are born as they don’t have time to train. Now I totally support the need for being a committed family member and pulling sufficient weight in this realm regardless of sporting aspirations. However, there are some small habits anyone can do which will save time and might even mean balancing training and family isn’t such a problem.

Plan ahead
This means have a plan so you know what training you are doing on any given day. You don’t need a coach to have a training plan either. As a minimum you should have a plan that’s at least a week ahead so you can do some planning around that. If your job involves travel you might need to work around that. Either way being aware of what training you’re doing next Wednesday will allow you to work out how you can pick the kids up and still fit your training in.

Be specific
If you have really limited time to train you should make sure that every session you do counts. When you are putting your plan together don’t just say “Ride for 3 hours” or “Run for 45 minutes” but be more specific. For example, “Ride for 3 hours keeping heart rate in zone 2 and taking on fluid every 15 minutes” or “Run 45 minutes including a 15 minute warm up then 20 minutes tempo and 10 minutes easy”. You should aim your specifics at whatever is your overall season objective.

Get organised
Have you ever noticed that getting your bike ready for a ride takes a lot less time when you do it the day before rather than when you get up on the morning of a ride? That’s because you’re under pressure. If you’re someone who struggles with personal organisation or time management then a really good habit is to write yourself a list and a timetable of what needs to be done and when you will do it. Then if you do find you’ve overslept or need to clean up after the kids at least you can evaluate how much time you need to get out of the door.

Say no to time wasters
Facebook, YouTube and text messages are all distractions that can often be ignored until a later date or even completely. If you have limited time in your day don’t waste it on matters that aren’t important. Many of us spend our time doing things that are urgent but not important due to poor planning. If you plan ahead you can make time for important but not urgent tasks such as your training! Don’t let things like social media distract you, unless it’s related to your business in which case there’s a time and a place for it anyway.

Give yourself a break
At the end of the day we are all human. Life happens. When it does we need to respond to it as best we can. If life gets in the way of training and you’ve done all you could to avoid missed sessions, tell yourself that’s life. Don’t be too hard on yourself for being human.

What advice can you share to make the most of every day?

Why you need to write a training plan

In the last blog I wrote about reviewing your previous season before looking forward. If you haven’t seen it click here to read it now. Once you have done that it is time to look forward and write your training plan. The first step is to set yourself some goals.

Be SMART
Many of us have heard that goals should be smart – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time based.  But what does that really mean? Unless it’s your first season you will probably have an idea of what  you want to achieve based on what you did last season. Many of us will then want to do better. So if you ran a 10k in 42 minutes last year this year you might want to beat 40 minutes. Or if you achieved top 10 in a race last year top 5 could be your goal this year. The important thing is make your goals SMART. Yes I do mean goals as it’s best to have several. Just imagine if your goal was a top 5 in a specific race and after a phenomenal season with lots of PBs you punctured and ended up 11th. Would you have failed? With that single goal quite simply yes. So don’t sell yourself short – set intermediate goals that will both keep you motivated to continue training and tell you you’re on the right track.

Set intermediate goals
When looking at a race that might be up to 12 months away you are likely to be overwhelmed in terms of exactly how to train all year to achieve top form on your big day. The point is you need to break the year down into bite size chunks. There are lots of differing views around this, if you’re interested google ‘periodisation’. I believe that however you break it down you need to base it around your intermediate goals. For example, where do you want to be by the end of the year, the end of February, early spring, etc? Think about races you might target or training routes you will do or simply tests you will take that could each form an intermediate goal. Traditional theory would suggest winter is about building your aerobic engine. Then comes transitioning from this to more specific race focused training before you focus your training entirely on getting you race ready. However you break it down you need to remember which intermediate goal you are working towards and be patient. There’s no point trying to beat your 5K PB when all you have been doing is low intensity running.

Write it down
Finally comes the all important aspect of committing your plan to paper (or the cloud using something like Training Peaks). However you do it, make yourself accountable. If you don’t write it down you won’t be clear on what you need to do. Better still is to give every session a specific goal. For example, this session I am going to work on cornering or on bike nutrition, or this session I am going to keep my heart rate in zone 2. Be realistic with your plan and start with your other commitments. For example, if you already have family or work commitments every Monday that only give you 30 minutes to train make this a recovery day or just a stretching day. Again there are lots of off the shelf plans you can get which you can manipulate for your own needs. In a future blog I will share some ideas for planning your week and season depending on what sort of race you are working towards.

Look back before you look forward

It is the off season for many triathletes, duathletes and time triallists. A time to put the fun back into sport and remember why you do what you do for the rest of the year. Thoughts are, inevitably, drifting towards what to do next season. If you are a long distance triathlete then you have probably already entered your ‘A’ race as they sell out so quickly. But before you set out your plans for next year, give yourself the benefit of a full review of this season.

Measuring Success
Did you achieve your season goal(s)? These may have been time based, position based or they may have been related to qualifying for a specific event. Whatever they wereBasic RGB be honest with yourself. If you set SMART goals in the first place you can’t really be dishonest. This is quite a sobering experience but just because you didn’t hit your goals doesn’t mean the season was a failure. Were your expectations too high or simply unrealistic? Did you have a mid season injury or accident that hampered your training? Did an unexpected work or family event have a big impact on your ability to focus? Here’s why I always encourage athletes to have several goals each season. Having just one and missing it can feel like failure. Having several and missing one but hitting others feels very different. Besides we do this for fun right so don’t be too hard on yourself!

Be specific
Then look at each part of your discipline and break it down. For example, if you’re a triathlete how was your swim start, how straight did you swim, how quickly did you get your wetsuit off, how did group swimming affect you? Looking at each in turn and ranking them can help you to work out where your focus areas are for the coming months. If you are a duathlete or time triallist how was your pace management – did you hold or fade, how did you climb and descend, how was your bike handling in wet and cornering – all areas where you can pick up vital seconds. For everyone, how well were you organised? Did you know the course in advance? Did you get enough sleep and maintain good nutrition? Did you warm up properly?

Work on your weaknesses
Once you have done an honest review, you have effectively identified weaknesses that you can work on over the winter. For example, if you have identified cornering as a weakness, think about what you can do to improve. Can you go to a velo park and practice or find a quiet safe road where you can test your skills? If your pacing was a problem and you always start too hard then focus some sessions on a negative split approach where the second half is faster than the first or include harder intervals towards the end rather than at the start. This is also a great way for you to set small regular goals, that keep you motivated and show progress. For example, by the end of December I want to be able to ride 30 miles with the second half over 18 mph.

If you have a season or two under your belt then you already have a wealth of knowledge about you that is ideal for you to work on over the coming months. Don’t waste it! Good luck.