In the Neuff Red power series, Coach Joe Beer has been looking at ‘Training with Power’, both for the bike and run.
In this fourth instalment, Joe looks at how to develop sessions to build out of late winter, through spring and towards your races.
The Power of Power: Build sessions for 2021
By Coach Joe Beer
There is still a lot of uncertainty as to which races will take pace this year, so the timing of your pre-season may be completely different to 'normal' years. But at some point this year, hopefully, we will race, so once you know your schedule, you can use your Stryd power meter to train smarter in those harder, longer and pace-practice sessions...
Triathlon training plan | Time to build - maybe?
It's now time to assess, plan and if timely, begin to execute development in sessions. Power measurement using the Stryd makes pace judgement, strength hill work or race-tempo sessions so much more deliberate and effective. You can be precise, whether it's a base run to add to the aerobic bank without affecting the next day's over-geared biking intervals, or doing a hard block of incline run intervals exactly so that the quality of power lasts the whole 6 or 10 repeats. Power measurement equals precision.
You may have had a good, bad or indifferent period of training through winter. My observations as a coach at various levels suggests most athletes kept more healthy this winter as a result of better hand hygiene, use of masks, less socialising and less indoor group sessions. It's also possible that the huge move to Zwift (and other indoor training systems) for bike and run training has meant people can train on better designed courses, be more time efficient and stay with groups more effectively (e.g. Zwift's 'Keep Everyone Together' mode is great for equalising people to be able to all ride together).
Many client benchmarks are therefore ahead of data from any previous February. Less coughs and colds means more consistency. However, the downside of that is that if racing is delayed you don't want to be all dressed up with nowhere to go. It is possible to be race fit too early, though I do recognise that many struggle to get race fit in time, every time.
Are you ready to build?
Pause a moment: Take into consideration if you have been forced to take breaks in training consistently through the mid and late winter. For example, you may have been ill, inconsistent or ignoring any plan. If so you will need some structure, some consistency, before upping the ante as suggested in the article below.
a) have a good base but need to completely reschedule when to start developmental sessions due to pushed-back race dates, or
b) need more time to build some consistent base to then add race-ready sessions on top (see BACK TO BASE note below).
The lucky ones are: (c) base is built and the races look only a few months ahead, so developmental sessions are now on the menu.
12 week triathlon training plan?
You can only train from where your body is right now. Never plan a build phase unless you are ready for it. You can only build if there's been consistent base training to then develop. Crash courses just don't work. “Base fitness in 8 weeks” or “Two months to your best ever...” are fantasy. Pure fantasy.
Back to Base training
Those who do need some consistent training should get back to “base work” as I call it. Please go back to the first article in this series. Get down to zone 1 training and set some benchmarks to review every 3 weeks to see your base building. It can be very motivating to see your diligent base work training turning into improved fitness – either lower HR for the same power, or more power produced when you run at a set target HR.
Training Plan Progression
If you are ready, lets go!
To move things on and be race ready it's a case of progressing several sessions per week – but not all sessions. As tempo efforts for short course athletes rev-up or long key runs build for long-course athletes go up to their magic target, well, other sessions must be skill, easy base and therefore not be progressing. There should be break-through and break-even sessions in every week.
With power we can be deliberate. Here's a list of just some of the sessions that power can help and a little about how to progress them. Remember: If you have a goal a long way off ask yourself: am I ahead of the curve and so should relax and not assume progression of duration, effort and volume right away.
Example build sessions
All sessions have a 10-15minute warm up of body and mind. Build HR from easy jogging Stryd Zone 1 (SZ1) up to SZ2 “moderate”, which should get you up to the very top of Heart Rate Zone 1 (HRZ1). If you are moving onto harder work do a progressive set such as 4 x 30 seconds at 5k pace (SZ3/SZ4) with 60 seconds active jogging between. Do not start interval work (SZ3 and harder) if injured, lacking in base running or immediately after coming back from illness. If you fail to complete your previous session correctly wait at least 4-6 days before trying again.
Short course, Top-End
This is for Sprint and Standard distance racers wanting to get used to high training efforts and build to peak race form, ideally working less than 10-12 weeks before a peak is due. Note: There is not a taper below so you have to figure when to ease back and leave the best effort for race day.
Warm up (as above, with progressive set) then
Long course Fatigue Resistance Intervals
Building in Fatigue Resistance Intervals (FRI) into long course plans is about using up-hills (or inclined treadmills) to get the power up for race day off-the-bike strength gains without running too fast. Long course athletes can run far faster on the flat than race day movement patterns will ever look like, yet get frustrated and confused “but I was not out of Zone 1”. Better to use inclines to get power up (and heart rate and a sense of “I've worked harder today”) whilst importantly keeping speed of movement to only just above race day pace.
Warm up (as above) then
I am a firm believer is making the challenging runs longer as we come out of winter. You can do long easy walk/runs mid-winter, but harder time on your feet (with race day fuelling practice) needs to build in this next part of the programme. Keeping to a power that feels relaxed is key: mid-upper SZ1 for long course athletes, into low SZ2 for those doing middle distance and shorter distances. Note: when I or others talk about fuelling “60 grams of carbs per hour” that means spread over the hour (e.g. 15g every 15 minutes) – it does not mean wait for each hour, then feed a massive amount in one go.
Warm up (as above) then
This is ideal for the Draft-legal and duathlon racers wanting to get used to throwing in surges. They teach the nervous system to fire fast and develop surge-pacing technique - they are not meant to create huge and endless lactate build up.
Warm up (as above, with progressive set).
Then have a build set before the main set: 4 x 10 seconds at SZ3/SZ4 with 60 seconds active jogging between
How does power help training sessions?
Power helps make your effort build in precise work terms so you gradually stress the body. For example, for one athlete battling a very stormy south westerly wind on a base run, Stryd helped them keep effort and power smooth even though their pace per mile was a minute slower as 8-9% of work went into running against the wind. Similarly another athlete could see that even though their HR was not super high and their speed was kept in check for their target Ironman run split, the power inclines on their treadmill really did do enough work to feel good about. If they had been running on flat ground, achieving the same HR would have meant running around 45 minutes faster than their best ever Ironman run split.
I will say it again: Training athletes is not hard, the science is quite simple and the effort not super human. It is over-thinking or ignoring plans and striving to do too much, too hard, too often which makes training difficult. Power measurement lets you know what work you are producing, not another athlete. Start to use power to perfectly execute base and development sessions and, some day soon, better racing. Remember: Power measurement equals precision.
Train smart and have fun.
Train with power
See Joe's previous articles in this power series:
About Coach Joe Beer
Joe Beer has been in endurance sports since the mid 1980's. He continues to coach and advise athletes of all levels from Ironman first timers to podium marathoners. He has written for magazines for over 30 years, numerous websites and has had two books published (Need to Know Triathlon – Collins, Time Crunched Triathlon – Hale. He continues the multisport lifestyle, being a science and gadget geek. From Zwift and time trials to ultra running with his partner Debbie across the beautiful terrain of Cornwall and Devon.