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How To Tackle 3 Common Training Challenges

Coach Justin Chester gives advice for three issues that many triathletes face when trying to get in the right amount of training.

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Dear coach: How should you handle these common training challenges?

1. You had a long run and bike ride scheduled for the weekend but are stuck in a hotel room for a work conference.

During work trips, time can be very constrained, so anything long is typically out. Replace long distance and duration with high-intensity speedwork. I use the formula: workload = volume x intensity to get the same equivalent physiological workout. That way the amount of work on the body is equal to the duration of the workout (volume) multiplied by the intensity.

RELATED: Triathlon Training While Traveling

2. Your spouse is growing tired of the six-hour Ironman Saturdays.

Master the art of negotiation. I’ve personally experienced this one while training for my first Ironman with an infant at home. For each one since then, I’ve made a deal with my wife: During weeknights, I’d be home by 6 p.m. and on the weekends I’d be home no later than noon. Her stipulation was that I had to be ready for any of the day’s activities after I was home (so no two-hour recovery naps). If I needed to do a six-hour ride on Sunday, I had to be wheels-down by 6 a.m., which meant getting up by 5 a.m. to get everything prepped with tires pumped, chain lubed, bottles topped off and nutrition added on the bike. Tough? Yes, but it was worth it. Oh, and one more thing: The family that you’re neglecting for those six hours is the same family that is going to be bringing you in during the last quarter mile of the run—a little flexibility can go a long way.

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3. You want to do a long-course race but have two little ones at home.

For athletes with young kids, there are more than enough things to get done around the house without adding triathlon to the mix. But with some careful time management and the right mix of intensity, long-course training can be safely accomplished in as little as 10 hours per week. As I noted at left, workload = volume x intensity. Therefore you can replace a two-hour, low-intensity (Zone 2) run with a 60-minute track workout (including Zone 4 and Zone 5 efforts), or you can replace a 4000-meter swim, which typically can take between 1.5 and 2 hours, with a set like 40×50 max effort with 20 seconds rest (2000 yards). It will take half as much time and still achieve the same physiological adaptations. This does not mean that all “long duration” work is eliminated. For athletes who are severely time-constrained, we set up a two-week build cycle (with the third week as the adaptation/recovery week) where everything is high intensity but short duration for the first week, and for the second week we include some bigger volume. An example build cycle looks like this (remember this just defines the total time spent swimming, biking and/or running).

RELATED: 7 Tips For Balancing Training With Life

Week 1
Monday:
1 hour (high intensity)
Tuesday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Wednesday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Thursday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Friday: Day off
Saturday: 3 hours (moderate)
Sunday: 3 hours (moderate)

Week 2
Monday:
Day off
Tuesday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Wednesday: 1 hour (low intensity)
Thursday: 1 hour (high intensity)
Friday: Day off
Saturday: 5 hours (low to moderate intensity)
Sunday: 2 hours (moderate)

USA Triathlon Level II-certified coach Justin Chester is based in Parker, Colo., where he is the coaching director at Altitude Multisport Club and the head coach for TriCoach Colorado.

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