We have barely started February and the first weeks of my year are spent debating and making ultimatums to athletes preparing for a European or North American race season. Most are simply training way too hard for this time of year. Rides of 2 hours 30 minutes become 3 hours 30 minutes. Longer runs of 1 hour become 1 hour 15 minutes. Swim workouts seem to grow very long warm downs as the training zealots try to sneak some extra miles in.
"Coach we're not doing enough, I have a race in April!"
And this is a phenomenon we're finding not just from professional athletes, but from our age groupers also.
I believe that if one is working so hard now, that by September or October when the most important races of the year are scheduled (World Championships) a horrible collapse is imminent. Regardless of our level in the sport, it is not possible to maintain all out-training year-round. Training too hard now will have a direct negative effect on the back end of your season.
As a coach I am proud that my athletes over the last 30 years have shown that performance levels can be delivered throughout the whole year. The foundation of that success is not stupidly in our offseason. While that seems both obvious and simple to implement, ambitious people find it hard to control the urge to do more, to do it harder, and to do it longer than they have in the previous season.
Let me help you understand some of the real practical physical effects on the body.
I believe that when we have a certain level of fitness, that 12 weeks give or take a week or two, is the amount of time that 'pushing towards peak fitness' can be sustained. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but this is my experience with most athletes.
It is also my estimate that when an athlete is at their top fitness, this can only be sustained for 8 to 9 weeks. Yes, I am very aware that the season now stretches to 7 months or longer... This is my very point! If you are 'pushing' and giving everything in January, you are going to come up very short come October. We have to think of how to distribute our energies, to keep us near our best over all parts of the racing season.
To do that we break our season up. We try to educate athletes that even training for Ironman, we should do no more than a full program of 20 weeks that includes a steady build-up. You cannot burn the candle at both ends with this sport.
Believe me, after a few weeks rest, we all feel refreshed and invigorated to attack our next season's goals and can't wait to get on with it. I urge caution, I urge shorter races and I train for these specifically in the early season. Coming out of early season and smashing every workout or doing a long race can and does affect the later parts of your season.
At Trisutto we want to see all triathletes have a long and injury-free season.