WHEN WILL WE RACE AGAIN?
Whether you’re a seasoned triathlete or a newby yearning to get your feet wet, spinning and trotting, it’s a frustrating time at the moment. Races are already being cancelled with the realistic prospect that more will follow. Training wise; facilities are closed, travel restrictions are in place and we don’t know which race (and when) we are aiming for.
In this uncertain world, one thing is certain; if we want to do a race, when we are allowed, we must be ready. To do this, we must train and plan ahead. After this, we must hope, pray and keep our shoe laces crossed that things start falling into place.
GLOBAL AND LONG-TERM PLANS
We cannot control what lies ahead and which races will run. These things are out of our control, however structure into our training and planning for what we hope will happen are important.
My advice here is sit down and ‘paper’ plan for the ideal (plan A – they will take place as advertised), then the next best thing (plan B – races will be re-arranged to a different date or you chose another) to a worst case (plan C – races are cancelled and we have to look to 2022). Whilst this may be pessimistic to some, it helps manage expectation and keep things running fluently.
PLAN A – EVERYTHING WILL RUN AS WANTED
Prepare a training plan that prepares you for your first-choice race or series of races. Place in some base, endurance, strength and speed as well as tapering down appropriately. Plan any travelling needs with accommodation; booking flexi if needed so that you have somewhere to stay.
Try to keep this going up until a race is actually cancelled or re-arranged. Follow the plan that was prepared by keeping up with sessions and intensity.
I would also say that whilst we very much hope some races will run; do look at the current climate and realistically assess if it is likely it will take place. This is also true when entering events with it being important to consider current fitness and experience, ability to train and calibre of the event itself. For example, entering a late season 70.3 if you are a seasoned athlete may be realistic; however if you have never done an event before and are poor on fitness this will be more challenging.
PLAN B – RACES ARE RE-RUN AT A LATER DATE OR CANCELLED
Hopefully, having planned a training plan and race-calendar for the year, this will be disappointing but not disastrous.
I would suggest keeping an eye on the environment with regards to what restrictions have been eased and are still present. It is possible from this, to look ahead and consider what may be cancelled. Still keep training until the bad news arrives, but start planning around this so that when it happens, plan B has already been initiated. This is the point to revisit the training plan and adjust it accordingly.
It may the race is being run at a later date; and if so, adjustment is by extending the base or adding a little more speed and power. Logistically, as you have hopefully booked the accommodation flexi, it will be easy to re-arrange this as well. Do this straight away.
It is also important at this stage to look at other races that may be planned. If you have two back-to-back 70.3’s on consecutive weekends and they are both ‘A’ races, one of them may have to give as it is unrealistic to perform at top level for both.
Plan your recovery as well as training so that you put in easy weeks, gentler in volume and intensity. Treat yourself to a massage to help with recovery itself.
Clearly, the more races that are cancelled, the more complex and difficult this will become and it may be that some races need to be taken out of the calendar; or at least raced as a training session. Again, plan recovery.
PLAN C – THE SEASON IS CANCELLED
Whilst this is a last resort, it is a possibility as triathlon is a sport that requires mass participation to take place. Certain races may run, but before entering these, as tempting as it may be, be realistic on your fitness and capability. There will be (hopefully) next year.
In the event that all your races are cancelled, and other races that may or many not run, are not feasible; this year has not been a waste. If you have been keeping up with training, be it for competition, use this as base and a stepping-stone for 2022. Build your strengths and weaknesses into your winter training and plan a strong winter to prepare.
Another option is to do some fun events; whether specific to your interest or not. If you are a triathlete, do some running or cycling events with more of emphasis on fun and enjoyment. Sport does not always mean racing to win.
TRAINING FOR COMPETING
Plan A aims to prepare ourselves for a full and planned racing season, whilst plan B allows for some adaptation through race-date changes or actual race changes.
Training is very difficult at present for various reasons. The ability to swim is very impaired with most pools closed and an ability to open water restricted for most. Cycling and running are easier, but distance restrictions may be in place. At the time of writing (Mid February 2020) we are also experiencing snow, ice and colder weather. Adapting normal training patterns are essential.
To swim better, you need to swim and being out of the water has a direct affect on this. At present, most pools are closed and travel restrictions mean that open water swimming may also be limited. However, if we want to do a triathlon, we need to do something.
Cycling and running will keep us generally heart and lung fit, so concentrating on these will have carry a benefit through until we can get wet again. However, swimming fitness is fairly specific, especially when considering open water events and particularly those longer and rougher swims.
Doing upper body weights work will keep the trunk, shoulder and arm muscles working. Whilst general work is good, specific work such as lat pull downs and tricep extension work can be very beneficial. You can also do resisted activities that mimic the swimming action can also help.
Bands can be used; not just for general upper body work but also lying prone (on front) and simulating the swimming action. Specific drills can be mimicked as well as doing butterfly and breast-stroke action will also help. Swim beams can also be useful.
Many triathletes use rowing machines as well which, although are not swim specific, will work the upper body.
Doing all these now will reap huge rewards once we can get wet again. It means your halfway through to being swim fit and specific water fitness should return much quicker.
CYCLING / RUNNING
Apart from the snow and ice that’s around at the moment, cycling and running are affected much less. We can still get out for exercise with cycling and running being permitted. The main issue we have at present is distance from home and terrain.
If not allowed to travel, you can stay close to home and get out for shorter laps closer to home. Whilst less exciting than longer rides, why not consider interval work or finding a hill to do repeats on. Once we are allowed further afield, a similar process can follow.
Whilst the weather is less friendly; for cycling there are turbo’s and for running, treadmills if you have one. Good sessions can be done on those until the great open outdoors can be achieved. Zwift or other platforms are very useful tools to keep interest.
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
Strength and conditioning is, in my opinion, a vital part of any training plan. Athletes often neglect this to concentrate on the activity itself. This will have benefit, but to a much lesser degree if your not including strength work with conditioning exercises. When balanced, this can improve speed, climbing and performance in general.
Strength work relates to weights; which can be body-weight based or machine/free weighted activity. These are sessions away from core disciplines but which are a major adjunct to it.
Conditioning work is something very few low to mid level athletes actual do, as they see it part of team sports activities. This includes circuit training, ‘killers’ and other run based sessions on a football pitch and agility work. It promotes ability to maintain pace and strength through a triathlon.
Rather than miss those open road sessions, replace them with these and make them challenging. They will promote rewards.
Having a plan is the main thing I can recommend. This is not just a training plan which is structured to include a taper to the main event, but also planning races and which ones you want to do best at.
Planning also looks at the peripheries; travel to and from, accommodation, recovery and equipment.
Into both of these areas plan to take part, but be sensible and look forward. If it is cancelled, have a plan B; or, alas a C if needed.
2020 is an unknown year ahead with races planned but already being cancelled. We do not know how covid will impact on us this spring, summer and early autumn. If its kind on us, we will get some races however we need to be prepared for cancellations.
Planning for these and being prepared is the key to getting through it. Be ready to change and adapt as well as move your event if needed. Planning will allow for this and prevent disappointment.
Stay optimistic but, if co-vid proves to be a total swine; then a positive attitude will allow a good winter an awesome 2022. Set bigger and better goals. Overall; smile and keeeeeeeeeep training!