First, congrats to all who have completed their last race of the season and are enjoying some well deserved down time. For those who have some late season races, hopefully you are getting in the results you want and having fun along the way. This post is for everyone, whether you've hung the TT up for the season or not. Its something to consider no matter the time of the year. I call it the 90% rule.
I have to preface the bulk of this post by pointing out that if you are a huge fan of periodization, this concept will seem extremely foreign. The old school method of base, adaptation, peaking and recovery are thrown out when using this method. Why? Well, as someone who followed the standard periodization method for years, realized some time ago, that it doesn't promote better sport specific fitness or general fitness. Its actually a nice cycle to keep you exactly where you are, year after year, without seeing much improvement. In many cases, it has athletes going backwards over time, not progressing. This old method also assumes you will peak only once or twice during a season, and leaves you pretty broken if you wanted to, God forbid, preform well at more than just 1 or 2 races. So before you close the blog, stay with me for at least another paragraph.
The 90% rule works like this - the whole plan is based on keeping the athlete at 90% readiness to race, no matter the time of the year. Instead of beating yourself senseless with garbage mileage, breaking you down, leaving you depleted and prone to injury, staying at 90% readiness keeps you sharp, allows you to change the way you race, the distances, and prevents dips in fitness, health and mood. Ever hit the off season after your last race and feel, well, wrecked, mentally, physically, and emotionally? The strain of training, with a complete disregard to nutrition, strength and recovery will affect you in all areas.
To achieve the 90% readiness, you have to be wiling to change some things around.
First, you need to incorporate 3 strength and conditioning sessions into your training. This is critical for a few reasons - strength and conditioning helps strengthen the muscles that are normally ignored when working in the endurance domain. Which leads into the 2nd reason for strength work - injury prevention. Getting dormant muscles to fire is critical to success long term in this sport. And this rolls nicely into the last reason - longevity. If you enjoy racing, do you want it to end in a year or 2? Or do you want to make this a lifestyle? Open your mind to change and watch what happens.
The second big change - you have to be prepared to ditch the periodization method. When people hear this, the first thing that is assumed, is that there is no plan, or it means to redline every workout. That is not only wrong, its an example as to the close mindedness of the people in this sport. There is a plan, however, it has more specificity to every workout and instead of just slamming mileage, it includes constant skill work. That means learning or re-learning how to swim, bike and run. All of these individual sport are skill based. Meaning, to get better, faster, more efficient, you need to practice the sport, by doing drills that are crucial for improvement. Typical periodization pays little attention to skill, or leaves it for the "base building" phase only, where its sprinkled into tediously long workouts. Skill needs more attention. Constant attention. Without it, bad habits form, and lead to injury.
Third, workouts, regardless of distance or time, need to have specificity. Instead of simply "run for 90 minutes at an aerobic pace" imagine a long run with 20 min of skill work, then 3 x 5k TT's where you are looking to hit a specific pace for each one, resting 5-6 minutes between repeats? The amount of information you can gain from a workout like that provides more insight as your running fitness and aerobic capacity than a month's work of long runs. The macro and micro plan is still there, but it will provide you the ability to accomplish more in less time by being efficient and becoming a student of your body.
Fourth, and this is super critical - nutrition cannot be ignored. Most triathletes I know consider gas stations great places to fuel up. You can have a 30 hour training week, but without quality nutrition, it doesn't matter if its 30 hours or 30 minutes, you won't be preforming at your best and you won't recover nearly as quickly as you should. I'm not going to give a specific diet, but eating clean - meaning, knowing what's in your food, or supplements, being able to actually pronounce the words on the side of a bar or powder mix, is a start in the right direction. So many athletes are great at training and terrible at nutrition. You can only play that game so long, because the inability to recover quickly will prevent you from having success. Athletes are left thinking they just aren't training enough and instead of fueling properly, simply train more. Which leads to over training and possibly injury or illness. Fuel right and you'll be amazed at what you can do.
I've been following the 90% rule for 7 years and have seen zero signs of slowing down. From recovery, to training to racing to nutrition, every day has been fun. Even the days that aren't great. We all have ups and downs, but knowing that my fitness allows me the opportunity to do what I love and continuously improve, getting on the top step of the po
dium at least 4 times a year for the last 6 years in a row, well, I'll take it. For more information on this type of training, continue to check in on the blog or hit me up with DM.