The Training Schedule and How to Read It
Of necessity, the charts that contain the training schedules include some abbreviations and other language that might seem cryptic. Following is a guide to reading and understanding the charts.
The most common abbreviations are WU (warm-up) and CD (cool down). Previous chapters have detailed the importance of the warm-up. In each of the three disciplines, the warm-up session is usually five to ten minutes of light activity, be it swimming, biking, or running. You want to warm up the muscles and get your blood flowing before you start any heavy activity.
At the end of your workout, a five- to ten-minute period of light activity is advisable before stretching or heading for home. The cool-down period helps your tense muscles relax while your heart rate returns to normal.
The training charts in this book focus on time spent in the different sports, not miles run or covered on a bicycle. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to chart your mileage in running and cycling in order to gauge your progress from week to week. You can do similar calculations if you record the number of laps you swim in the pool.
On the charts, when you see a number next to an activity — swim, cycle, run — the number in almost all cases indicates how many minutes you are supposed to do that activity. For example, if you see “Swim 20” on the chart, that means your swim workout should last twenty minutes. “Run 30” means you are going to have a run workout that lasts half an hour. “Drills 10” means do ten minutes of drills.
As your training progresses, the times will lengthen and you will see notations such as “Bike 1:10.” The means your bike session will last an hour and ten minutes.
When you see something like “4 × 100” in the swim column, that means you will be swimming 100 yards or meters (depending on which your pool uses) without stopping, completing the distance four times. Rest in between is permitted. Similarly, “6 × 50” means six swims of 50 yards each.
The training charts have many references to drills. All of them were described in the respective chapters on swimming, biking, and running. In the chapter on running, for example, drills include butt kicks, high knee kicks, and single leg hops.
When your chart calls for drills, pick two or three of these drills and do them for a minute or two each. You will do these along with your warm-up to get into the swing of your activity. If one of the drills is harder for you to do than others, be sure you include it each time your training chart calls for drills.
Here is a rundown of other terms on the charts that require an explanation:
Easy. When your chart recommends an activity to be done “easy,” that means more than a jog (for running) and with some effort but not to the point of discomfort.
Hard. When this appears on your training chart next to an activity, you will push yourself to the point that you are straining. “Hard” does not, however, mean all out. The training programs in this book only rarely call for all-out effort.
Cadence. This is revolutions per minute (rpm) on your bike. High cadence is higher than 90 rpm.
Push hills. This means that when you are biking and you come to a hill, give it some extra effort for one to two minutes. Coast if you need to for recovery. If your riding course does not have many hills, change to a harder gear to accomplish this part of the workout.
Time trial (TT). A workout of set duration after which distance is measured. Good for comparing progress week to week. Used mostly with the bicycle workouts.
Tempo. A tempo run is done between a comfortable pace and race pace. If your goal for your race is nine minutes per mile, your tempo run should be 9:30 to 9:45. For a race pace of ten minutes, do your tempo runs at 10:30. You do not stop during your tempo run.
Strides. A drill in which you run on a soft surface for approximately 100 yards, building your speed as you go. You should finish at a hard pace. Strides are listed in the charts by the number to be done: “4 Strides” means do the drill four times. Focus on your form whenever you do strides.
Spin and aerobic spin (cycling). Usually includes a minimum rpm for spin, with gears adjusted so it's not a hard effort. Aerobic spin is done at an easier pace, much like the long run for runners.
Spin-ups (cycling). Short-duration increases in rpm, usually to 100 to 110 rpm for thirty to sixty seconds.
Build and descend (swimming). If the chart says “6 × 75 Build,” that means you should swim 75 yards six times (with rest between segments) and push in the last 25 yards of each segment. For descend, make each full segment faster than the previous one.
Intervals. Structured workouts that call for increased effort during a run, bike, or swim, almost always calculated in time rather than distance. Interval duration varies from one minute to five or more.
Fartlek (running). Unstructured increases in speed — pickups of twenty to thirty seconds — usually at random, as in running fast from one telephone pole to another.
Stretch, strength, core. Details on these exercises can be found in Chapters 6 and 7. When one or more of them is listed as an alternative to a complete day off, spend about thirty minutes on the workout.