For me, the start of every triathlon season is like clockwork. I’ve come to realize that a scheduled event rolls around once every spring. One in which I acquire the opportunity to repeat the mistakes of my past. It’s a time to be foolish in my confidence. A time to act out of pride. Perhaps it’s the suppressed tenacity or the ambition that gets to me. Or perhaps it’s simply the arrival of pleasant weather. Either way, a wake-up call is imminent.
Every year I embark on a long stamina ride that will surely surpass all other long rides that came before. And every year I’m humbled by a suitable bonk sneakily reaching from the pit I am about to enter, yanking my head below the clouds it had been ignorantly floating through.
Why does this always happen, you ask? Indeed the reasons are many, but it mostly has to do with my over-eagerness. I go too far, too soon. I ignore my nutrition. My pace is a gargantuan bite of more than I can chew. As a result and by my own example, I’d like to offer three very important points to remember about stamina training in triathlon.
1. Build Long Sessions Gradually
Stamina training in triathlon is the work required to go the distance at the pace you should be capable of maintaining. This means intelligently determining what your longest training session needs to be in order to gain the stamina required to finish your planned race distance to the best of your ability.
However, it also means intelligently building toward that longest session. Take a cue from my error. Don’t go out for a 5-hour long ride when your longest session beforehand has only been 2 hours. This is detrimental for a number of reasons.
First, your body is ill prepared for the amount of work. Pursuing this duration of work will ensure additional time needed for recovery, which negatively impacts how you should currently be training. Second, you will not reap the full benefits of the training session because without gradually acquired stamina fitness your form will break down and your body will be overcompensating to complete the distance. Third, the overcompensation and poor form creates a high probability of potential injury.
The best way to reach your needed stamina is to build long sessions gradually over time. The TriDot Training System makes this a priority based on your next “A” race. Under TriDot, you’ll have a smart, guided schedule with each micro-cycle of your training plan, gradually building in long sessions until you’re ready for your desired distance.
2. Nutrition Early
A common mistake many athletes (including myself) are guilty of during long sessions is nutritioning according to how they feel. A nutrition plan should be adaptable depending on conditions, but it should never be abandoned.
Even if you feel like you have a full tank in the first hour, you still need to be hydrating and consuming calories. Always take your nutrition early, regardless of the weather or your confidence. If you start hydrating and taking in calories late in the game – after you start to feel depleted – you’re already past the point of no return.
3. Follow Your Pacing Plan
Everyone has one of those days where they’ve suddenly become a gazelle or the chain on their bike has suspiciously become an afterthought. It’s funny how ambitions grow when you’re at your prime. Now if you’re power threshold training, this might be a good time to go for it. If you’re 30 minutes into a 2-hour run, however, maybe you should hold off on that above-Z3 pace that seems to feel so effortless in the moment. I promise you, it won’t an hour later.
When stamina training, your pacing should be methodical, especially at the start. Let your HR monitor, power meter, or the clock be your guide for at least the first hour of a long session. Additionally, unless you’re planning on joining the Tour De France, never enter a Zone 5 effort. This level of work comes at a cost. High intensity is an easy way to stifle the physiological state you want your body to be in for the long haul.
With a TriDot plan, you’ll be given prescribed intensities for each discipline based on your functional threshold for each. Take the description for your long sessions seriously and keep those intensities in check. Stamina training has no room for hares. You’re playing the tortoise game and you need to be patient.
TRIDOT TAKEAWAY: Stamina training in triathlon requires patience. Build long sessions gradually, remember to nutrition early in your workout, and always follow your pacing plan.
TALK WITH TRIDOT: What other key points should we be remembering when stamina training?
JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.