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We recently joined Ironman world champion Sebastian Kienle at an Orca launch event in the Canary Islands, where he shared advice for age-groupers looking to improve their Ironman time: You have to go faster to get faster. As obvious as that sounds, Kienle has seen triathletes plateau because of a lack of intensity, opting for long, slow miles over quality efforts. Kienle shares workouts to combat this problem. (Note: Keep in mind none of these workouts should be attempted without an established fitness base of at least a couple months.)
Problem: Placing too much emphasis on stroke technique and drills
Solution: Key workouts should combine endurance sets with speed sets that have short rest intervals.
“Just doing drills will not help your technique,” Kienle says. “Doing drills right is important, but just going through the motions is not effective without knowing exactly what you’re doing in the water.”
The message here is that unless you have a coach critiquing your stroke from the pool deck, your time is probably better spent pushing yourself to get faster in the water.
“This is a key workout for me because it incorporates endurance and speed. The change of pace between pulling and the 100s and 50s simulates a race.”
Repeat four times through with three minutes rest between each set:
400 moderate pull
4×100 with 5 seconds rest
4×50 with 5 seconds rest
= 4000-yard main set
Problem: Riding too far, too slow
Solution: Incorporate intervals and hill workouts.
“Doing long, easy rides is a good way to build a solid base. But in order to get stronger and faster, doing intervals is the only way to improve.”
Kienle says incorporating a weight-lifting routine is another way to build strength, as well as one-leg drills on the trainer. In your aerobars, do three sets of 50 revolutions per leg, focusing on a smooth, circular pedal stroke.
4–8 hill repeats of about 10 minutes each at race-pace power with a cadence of 40 RPM or less
30 minutes easy at a recovery pace
3–5 10-minute intervals at race-pace power on a flat road with a cadence of 100 RPM
“This workout builds strength in addition to increasing speed and turnover.”
Problem: Spending too much time running at a comfortable pace.
Solution: Get out of your comfort zone by running hard off the bike.
“In the last year, I’ve only done three long runs over 19 miles in training. I get much more out of my runs by simulating the muscle fatigue I experience in a race that comes from running after a ride.”
2-hour bike ride at an easy pace
12–15-mile run at a pace about 10 seconds per mile faster than race pace
“Running harder for less time decreases the overall impact on your body and pays off with aerobic gains as well.”