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Wondering how coaches create a workout? It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not just pulled out of thin air.
Having a coach might be the best way to get faster, but sometimes your budget—or commitment level—can get in the way. Training literature is a good alternative, but what if you’re getting tired of the same old workouts over and over again? In an age of do it yourself, use these tips to create your own workout adventure.
Know Your Goal
Whether you’re planning a short session (even just 30 minutes) or a long one, set a goal for the workout. First, ask yourself what you’re training for: a long-distance event or a short one? The long-term goal should drive the medium- and short-term ones. It’s good practice to define the higher priorities first, then try to break them down into smaller pieces.
Build the Framework
Plan and manage your session time. The idea is to maximize every minute you have, without forgetting the most important “blocks” of your workout. When you write down your session, always include a warmup, a buildup, a main set (where your main goal is mostly focused; it should take up at least 50 percent of your whole session), and a cooldown at the end.
The goal of the warmup is to work the muscles and get the body temperature up to be ready for the next, more demanding part of the session. Don’t just “jump” straight into a main set; the sudden addition of stress could increase the possibility of injury. Even a short one-hour session needs at least a 10-minute warmup. If the session is longer, 15 minutes is ideal.
The buildup session is often neglected, but it’s crucial to transition from the warmup to the main set. Include technique sets and reps and/or a few reps that bridge the gap from warmup pace to main-set pace. For swimming, use 50-meter technique drills (25 meter drill, followed by 25 meter swim) repeated four to six times with 15 seconds rest. Do single-leg focus drills on the bike to develop your pedal stroke.
The Main Set
The main set is where you should structure the workout’s goal. Work on specific fitness components: endurance, strength, power, speed, and so on—a little research on each type will help with specifics. Some goals need a steady workout intensity, others should be structured as an interval session with higher intensities followed by a certain period of rest. For example, a very simple, but super effective, interval is: one minute hard, one minute easy (or 30 seconds hard and 30 seconds easy); repeat. Even 30 minutes of this type of workout will do the trick.
Include at least 10 minutes of cooldown for a one-hour session— longer if the session is over an hour. The cooldown is crucial to lower your heart rate after an intense workout, relax the body after it’s stressed, and reduce the risk of injuries and the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles. An active cooldown (10-minute easy spin or run) also reduces the risk of “blood pooling”—when blood has a harder time getting back to your heart from your legs (blood is pushed up by muscle contraction). Don’t forget to stretch the main muscles used and get a recovery snack in the 30 minutes following a cooldown.