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GeneralHealthProgramsSkills & TechniqueTriathlon

Balancing volume and intensity

By May 8, 2014 No Comments

Have you noticed that the longer the race the better the non-athletically built competitors seem to do? The reason is that as the distances increase the more the balance shifts from speed to durability. Sure, a leaner athlete, with the same durability will generally be quicker over a course, but if a heavier or physically weaker athlete does the critical volumes required to last, the odds shift.

Jesse Kropelnicki has published much material supporting this approach to training, an approach I have adopted, with success for myself and with the athletes I coach.

In brief, the volume of training needed to achieve speed potential in Triathlon can be calculated as:

  • Swim – 9/3 of race distance per week
  • Bike – 8/3 of race distance per week
  • Run – 7/3 of race distance per week

For the longer events in the sport, the vast majority of the volume is carried out at low intensity. If you do the sums, the volume for Ironman can equate to over 30 hours per week, a volume not reachable in the short-term for those new to endurance sport. It may take 3 years for an Olympic distance athlete to reach their full Ironman speed potential.

An athlete considering a longer event should be comfortable in reaching 2/3 of this volume, per discipline per week in training. 360km on the bike and 65km running for Ironman before attempting the distance, accepting that they will struggle with the distance and may need to walk or constrain pace to complete.

It is good advice to limit year on year volume increase to 30% to avoid injury and allow for adaptation. In constructing a programme, the prior years training volumes and the intended “A” race distance are key to sustainable and consistent, injury free improvement.

Critical training volume by distance:

Critical Volume (Km) IM 70.3 51.5 Sprint
Bike 480.0 240.0 106.7 53.3
Run 98.0 49.0 23.3 11.7
Swim 11.4 5.7 4.5 3.0
Example hours
Bike 16.0 8.0 3.6 1.8
Run 8.9 4.5 2.1 1.1
Swim 3.8 1.9 1.5 1
Total 28.7 14.4 7.2 3.8

Minimum volume by distance:

Minimum Kms IM 70.3 51.5 Sprint
Bike 320.0 160.0 71.1 35.6
Run 65.3 32.7 15.6 7.8
Swim 7.6 3.8 3.0 2.0
Min hours
Bike 10.7 5.3 2.4 1.2
Run 5.9 3.0 1.4 0.7
Swim 2.5 1.3 1.0 0.7
Total 19.1 9.6 4.8 2.6

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