MMRF Endurance Events

Triathlon Training Tips - Week 9

Week #9 – Speed Workouts

To be totally honest, I am not a fan of speed workouts. In fact, I so dislike going to the track for repeats, doing intervals on the bike or hard sets in the pool that I avoid them whenever possible. There is a point, however, where if you want to go faster you do have to train faster.

I often say that performance in endurance racing is not about who goes the fastest, it's about who slows down the least. A common statement made by triathletes is "When I finished the swim" or "at the end of the bike I was 'on track' for a (fill in the time) tri..." Then something happened that slowed them down. Well, quite often what slowed them down was simply a lack of preparation, specifically their endurance workouts. Not speed training, just good old long bike, runs and bricks to build endurance. I believe this comes first. So, you can turn in a fast tri time without speed workouts by building up your endurance. This endurance allows you to maintain a steady pace throughout your entire race.

There does come a time however, when your fitness or goals are at a point where to get faster you must train faster. The good news is that speed work need not (and should not) mean lengthy workouts or be done several times a week. Speed work does not have to be performed at the track or with a heart rate monitor. The non-elite triathlete can benefit tremendously by doing just a few interval workouts per week. Here is an example of one that you can do either on the bike or while running:

  • 15 minute easy warm up

  • 3 x 5 minutes hard at 2 minutes rest: This means go for five minutes at a "comfortably hard" pace, slow down to an easy pace for two minutes to recover, then repeat this progression 2 more times. I equate the five minute interval to an intensity where you're not dying, but you don't want to be there much more than five minutes.

  • 15 minute easy cool down

You can also use shorter weekend races to get faster on the run as well. Running a 5K or 10K race every few weeks will help increase your run speed, helping get in some good speed workouts without the boredom of doing endless loops around a track all by yourself.