Your questions – Answered by Shem Leong

Your questions – Answered by Shem Leong

Q: For someone who can only train 10hrs/wk (betw 8-12) for a 70.3, with no particular strength/weakness – all swim bike run are equally average, how would you allocate the training hours and at what intensity?

Typical age groupers that need to balance work, family and training usually have one hour a day and a little bit longer on the weekends for training. 10 hours a week is plenty of you are able to dedicate this amount of time consistently every week.

Here is the short answer –

Swim – 2 x a week (2 hours altogether)

* 1 hour each

* One Strength session/ One long steady aerobic session.

* Use paddles to build upper body strength

Bike – 3 x a week – ( 4 – 5 hours altogether)

* 2 x 1 hour on the trainer – one strength session/ one tolerance session – learn to suffer!

* 1 x long steady ride on the road (usually weekend)

Run – 2 – 3 x a week (3 hours altogether)

* 1 x 1 hr speed / tolerance session depending on proximity of race and your running background and current fitness.

* 1 x long steady aerobic run.

* Short run off the bike as the race draws closer.

Here is the thinking behind it :

For an athlete that is equally average in all 3 disciplines, the biggest ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of gains in triathlon performance would be to work on bike strength. Here’s why:

1) Once you are ‘there’ with your swim, unless you can swim a lot ( upwards of 4 times a week) – unfortunately significant gains in swimming are very hard to come by. You can try to improve your ‘technique’ all you want – but honestly, when you’re caught in the fray, all bets are off – strength is going to be your best friend. Short hard sprints with paddles will build strength and a longer steady aerobic swim will work both ends of the ‘spectrum’ of swim fitness, leaving the ‘overlap’ to take care of everything else in between. That’s why 2 swims, is the minimum required to maintain your current level of swimming. Unless you decide to do a swim focused block of training, and are willing to let the bike and run go for while,  I believe that ‘technique’ is better left humming quietly in the background to develop naturally and gradually over the months and years as your cumulative time in the water adds up and you intuitively develop a better sense of balance,rotation, timing and stroke.

2) The stronger a biker you are, the better your chances of putting in a solid bike and still having decent legs left for the run:

Consider Athlete A (average biker / super runner) vs Athlete B (strong biker /  average runner). Say they exit T1 of a 70.3 neck and neck and start the bike together. While Athlete B pushes out a solid, steady and well paced ride of 2.5 hours, Athlete A digs deep and smashes his legs for that same bike split, to enter T2 together. Now who do you think is in a better position to run off the bike? No matter how strong a runner Athlete A is, his legs are already fried from the bike and he’s going to struggle to even put one foot in front of the other. Athlete B, on the other hand, still has relatively fresh legs and is in a much better position to put his ‘average’ running fitness to good use.

Bottom line – for training in Singapore, get a bike trainer and learn how to use it. The uninitiated will use every excuse not to get on the trainer while those in the know dutifully climb on board and kill themselves for the better part of an hour – twice a week – and then ride away from the rest of the bunch on the group ride. Think of trainers session like track work for cycling.

10 hours a week? How much of that time is used up actually getting out the door and riding to a spot where you can do some meaningful bike training in Singapore?  Now multiply that by 2 cos you have to ride back. Now one of your riding buddies is running late so you need to wait for him. A little further into the ride, the traffic light has just gone red in the middle of your 10 min time trail effort. Never mind – we’ll start over – hang on – mind that idiot driver, mind that pot hole. Someones dropped a bottle/ needs to stop to refill etc… Sound familiar?

Bike trainer scenario – wake up, brush teeth, pull on bibs,  plug in your earbuds, turn the volume up  and jump on the trainer. 15 min warm up will wake you up/ 2 x 20 mins head down, eyes closed, best effort Time Trial / 5 mins easy recovery  in between/ 5 mins easy spin cool down.  Done in an hour.  Legs dead but buzzing from the suffering that you have just lived through. Shower. Quick bite  – off to work. Do that twice a week and you’ll see improvements in no time.

To wrap up, when it’s time to train – train. Put everything you have (however much or little it may be on that day) into that precious hour. Learn to focus and stay in the moment for the duration of your session. Tune into what your body is doing and how you can do it better – breathing / stroking/ pedaling / holding form. Experiment, test and work at accurately gauging your perceived effort level during all different types of training sessions. This will come back to you on race day through a sharper mental focus and an intuitive ability to pace yourself perfectly through the 70.3 miles.

And when the session is over, get back to the rest of your life – being a good and responsible Husband/ Wife/ Dad/ Mum/ Employee!


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