Free Workouts Four You

Buy me some beer at the races to show your appreciation

Howdy. I told you a few weeks ago that I would share some of my workouts with you. No problem.

But I also need to give you a few words of warning. Unless you are an advanced athlete or come from a competitive athletic background, these workouts are extremely difficult. Donít forget that Iíve been swimming competitively for twenty years. Iíve also been running, biking, and lifting weights on and off for fifteen years. I have what is called a very good base from which to work. The same goes for guys like Bill and Dave Picciano, John Reback, and Otto Bell. Weíve all been training in some shape or form (running and/or swimming as kids) for many, many years.

So if youíre new to the sport of triathlon, or only in your second or third year, I would recommend you use these workouts as a very general guide, but donít try to match the volume or intensity. You could wind up hurt, and your season would be ruined before you start. Your best bet would be to talk with some of the better triathletes, runners, swimmers, and cyclists in your area and get a general idea of what kind of program they follow. If you can afford it, a competent personal trainer may work for you as well. But before you run off and hire someone as a personal trainer or personal coach, check out what kind of philosophy they have and what kind of results they have delivered. You want to get your moneyís worth.

Some of the best advice I ever got was simple, and free: Start slowly Ė Then ease off. Itís the slogan of the Tortuga Golden Striders, a triathlon and running club in the Pennsylvania/New Jersey area. The meaning is simple. Stick your toe in the water before you jump all the way in!

And what that means is this Ė donít expect great results right away. Getting stronger, faster, and tougher will probably take you a long time. Itís only the rare, exceptional athletes who instantly become lightning fast. Iíve been a good swimmer since I was ten years old, but it took me years (and I do mean years) of work to become a decent runner.

And while I still get run down in a lot of the races, I have learned the value of patience. I know that as long as I keep working at it, Iíll get better. And thatís the ease part of the slogan. The more work you put into something, the easier it becomes. What was once very difficult for you becomes a walk in the park.

Well, maybe not that easy, but you get the point.

With that in mind, below youíll find two or three of my favorite workouts from each sport that might help you become a better triathlete. Donít forget what I said last year, either. Have some fun when you do this stuff. And please, donít try these workouts if you know youíre not ready for them Ė and youíll know youíre not ready if you look at the workout and say, ďNo way.Ē

Swimming workouts:

  1. Go to the beach. Put on your suit and goggles. Jump in the water, swim out beyond the waves, then swim back and forth for 45 minutes. Come back in a bit and body surf for a 30 minutes. Practice diving under the waves on your way out and riding the lip of the waves on the way in. Fun.
  2. Pool.
    • Warm up 600-1000 yards.
    • Kick 300-500 yards. Main set is called a pyramid:
    • 10 x 50 on :05 seconds rest
    • 5 x 100 on :08 seconds rest
    • 2 x 250 on :15 seconds rest
    • 1 x 500 on :25 seconds rest
    • 2 x 250 on :15 seconds rest
    • 5 x 100 on :08 seconds rest
    • 10 x 50 on :05 seconds rest
    • Total yardage is 3500 for the set. No breaks!
    • 200-300 warm down.
  3. Pool.
    • Warm up 600-1000 yards. Grab a pull buoy and/or paddles:
    • 4 x 800 freestyle, descend 1-3 effort, #4 is all out. 1 minute rest between each.
    • Total yardage is 3200 for the set. No breaks!
    • 200-400 warm down.

Running workouts:

  1. Go to an off road trail and run for 1 to 1.5 hours. Not easy, but not fast. This should be a peaceful, clear-your-mind type of run.
  2. Track.
    • Warm up 2-3 miles. Stretch, then do 4 x 100 strides (short accelerations).
    • 12-16 x 400m at sub 5k race pace with a 100m jog between each (approx. 1 minute of rest).
    • If your 5k is a 18:36, that means your 5k race pace is 6 minutes per mile. Sub 5k pace means you should run each 400m a bit faster than 90 seconds per 400 (which equals a 6 minute mile). 87 to 89 is good, 80-85 is too fast (for this type of workout).
    • Warm down 1-2 miles.
  3. Fartlek runs.
    • Warm up 2-3 miles. Stretch.
    • 4 minutes fast (5 to 10k race pace), 4 minutes easy.
    • Repeat this 4 to 6 times.
    • 1-2 mile warm down.

Cycling workouts:

  1. Intervals.
    • Warm up 20-40 minutes.
    • Either by pushing a bigger gear or spinning at a higher cadence (or both), increase your effort to about 90% of your max effort for 2-4 minutes, followed by 2-4 minutes of easy recovery riding. Do this at least 3 times and up to 12 (last week I did 4 x 4 minutes).
    • Warm down 20-40 minutes.
  2. Group riding.
    • Find a group ride. Stay with the group as long as you can.
    • I know a lot of you triathletes are dubious of riding with the roadies, but they know what theyíre doing. Their road savvy, sprinting ability, and sheer muscular strength are traits that you should envy.
    • Paceline rides make you work harder (unless you are a super fit Pro/Cat 1 rider) because you pull through the front at a speed much faster than you would ride by yourself.
    • Riding with other people passes the time, allowing you to get more mileage in without getting bored out of your mind.

Strength training:

There are many different machines, free weights, and exercises you can do. I typically lift 2 times a week and alternate the machines or free weights that I use. Some people are happy with a set routine each day, while others like variety. The stuff below is what I like to do and may not apply to you.

  1. Strength training.
    • 1 x 12 reps at 70%, 1 x 10 reps at 80%, 1 x 4-6 reps at 90-95% of the following stations:
    • Swim related muscle groups include:
      • straight bench, incline bench, or decline bench
      • curls, either curl bar or dumbbells
      • lat pulldown
      • tricep extension
      • shoulder shrugs (I use dumbbells)
      • seated row
      • pushups
    • cycling and running related muscle groups include:
      • standing or seated squats (do seated if you have back trouble)
      • leg (quad) extensions
      • hamstring curls
      • calf raises (try toes straight, toes out, toes in x 15 each)
      • lunges (step forward, kneel until your back knee touches the ground, stand up, step back, repeat with other leg, very tough, especially with weights Ė works your glutes)

  2. Core workouts:

    Core workouts strengthen your abdominal and back muscles. Obviously, if you have a back injury, these exercises may not be for you.

    • Crunches. There are a bunch of crunches you can do. Itís half of a situp. Put your hands behind your neck and use your stomach muscles to lift your upper body off the ground. Repeat 50-100 times.
    • Side crunches. Repeat 50-100 times.
    • Cross body crunches. Repeat 50-100 times.
    • Back lifts. Lie on your stomach, put your hands behind your head, and lift your upper body and legs off the ground. Hold it for 1-2 seconds and then drop slowly. Repeat 10-15 times, take a break (I do another set of crunches) and then repeat.
    • Leg lifts. Like you see in the Aerobics classes. Lie on your side and lift your top leg in the air as high as you can go. Repeat until your side aches. Then do the other side.
    • Kicks. Lie on your back. Put your hands at your side, lift your legs off the ground, and kick freestyle. Then scissor kick. 1-2 minutes at a time.
    • Side twists. Get a broom handle, put it behind your head, drape your arms over it, and twist to the left and right slowly and steadily. The heavier the broom handle, the stronger your core becomes.
    • Aerobics. Yup, they know what theyíre doing. All that jumping around really works.

  3. Stretching.

    Stretching is probably the most underrated physical activity in existence. Stretching makes you more limber, decreases your chances of injury, and increases your chances of getting stronger. You can stretch on your own, do Yoga, Tai Chi, martial arts, or water ballet. Whatever works to make you a more limber person.

There you go. Thatís the kind of stuff I do to get ready for the Coca Cola Classic Sprint Triathlon series. If you stick to it, train smart, and train hard, maybe one day Iíll see you lining up in the elite wave. Until then, stay safe and injury free.

Marty Gaal - March 2001