Training for 1 sport is bad enough. You need to do a long session, intervals, tempo work, strength training and a multitude of other workouts! If you're training for triathlon, the complications become even greater. Planning out your week can become a complicated process but it's important for you to understand that 'which session you do on which day' has a significant impact upon getting through your training plan successfully.
What's the purpose of the session?
I've mentioned many times that one of the key issues with the way people train, is that they do their easy stuff too hard and their hard stuff is too easy. This generally results in most of the training being done in a 'middle zone'. Before you plan your week, you need to consider the objective of each session as that will influence the optimal day and time.
High Intensity Intervals / Hard Sessions
HIT or harder sessions are designed to be carried out at a HIGH INTENSITY. For this reason, you can't plan them on the days following other hard sessions, you must be rested for these sessions or you will not be able to produce the required intensity, whether that be running speed or cycling power output.
Low Intensity Endurance Sessions
The lower intensity endurance sessions can be done on days following harder sessions, it's ok to complete these when tired. You can slow down and complete the distance comfortably, without having to push yourself.
Time Of Day
It is generally easier to complete higher intensity sessions in the evening, as our bodies are more awake. It's often more difficult in the mornings, although some 'morning people' don't have an issue. Completing longer endurance sessions in the morning isn't an issue as the intensity isn't very high. There is also a benefit to doing longer and easier sessions in the morning as you can do them 'fasted' and encourage fat usage. One of the problems relating to this is that most races are in the morning, so at some point in the season, there may be real benefits to switching higher intensity sessions to mornings.
Single Sport Example:
For single sport athletes, the planning is relatively simple. You can have 2-3 harder days, broken with easy/rest days:
Mon: Easy run / ride (AM) Strength (PM) - depending upon time of year
Tue: Hard intervals / training (PM) (May be affected by strength)
Wed: Easy run / ride (AM)
Thur: Hard intervals / training (PM)
Fri: REST / Very easy run / ride (AM)
Sat: Hard Intervals (AM)
Sun: Easy long run / ride (AM)
Multi Sport Athletes:
If you're training for triathlon, it becomes a little more difficult. Here's an example based on 2 key swim/cycle/run sessions and includes strength for this time of year:
Mon: Swim (AM) Strength (PM)
Tues: Easy long run (AM)
Wed: Swim (AM)
Thur: Cycle Hard Intervals (PM) - Option of 30 minute run to follow
Fri: REST or Swim (AM)
Sat: Run Hard intervals (AM)
Sun: Easy long ride (AM)
If you are doing strength training, this can leave you feeling very 'heavy' for 24-48 hours after a hard gym session. You firstly need to consider the time of year (block of training). If you are still in your base phase, you can swap a harder ride/run session for a strength session or fit in the strength on your easier / recovery days. If this is your strategy, you should expect to feel heavy on the following days and you may not perform at your optimal level. As the season approaches, you may need to reduce strength to hit your target training times in the more intense sessions.
If you find that you are tired every day, sometimes a double day followed by a rest day is of benefit. For example, if you're planning a high intensity cycling session on Tuesday morning, a 1 hour easy run on Wednesday and another high intensity cycling session on Thursday, that's 3 consecutive days. Instead, doing a hard cycle session and easy 1 hour run on the same day (one in morning and one in evening) means that the next day you can completely rest. It's fine to do a hard session in the morning then an easy session in the evening as the second session doesn't need to be high quality. If you feel that you need a break rather than training EVERY DAY, then try the double day, but do the harder session first.
Take a look at your training week and ask the following questions:
1. What sessions do you need to be doing at this time of year to hit your goals?
2. On which days are the key sessions where I need to be performing at high intensity?
3. If so, have you got an easier day before and after?
4. Can you change the time of day to benefit the session?
5. Are your easier / longer days planned to follow the harder days?
6. Are you doing those easier / longer days at the correct / low intensity or just racing your mates?
Critically, ask yourself the question, is there a clear difference in intensities between your training sessions. Are your longer sessions easy and your shorter sessions near maximal, or are they all falling into that 'middle zone' where the easy is too hard and hard is too easy?
If you'd like a more accurate assessment of your personal strengths and weaknesses, you can book a sports science assessment or register for our coaching support for as little as £40 per month. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
The Endurance Coach