Making 10 Hours/Week Count


In the last post I talked about the type of training that I'll be doing over the winter.  Admittedly, I'm bit of a 'fair weather' triathlete, so I train less in the winter months.  As the title says, I'm currently training 10 hours/week.  Obviously this is low volume, so the solution is to up the intensity.  This doesn't mean I'm spending 10 hours a week at my maximum heart rate, working myself into the ground.  At this time of year the approach to each sport is different.  Let's break it down.
Swimming: a weakness of mine.  Looking ahead for a moment, the aim for 2011 is to improve on my 60 minute Ironman swim.  Without a doubt my limiter in swimming is technique.  Having never had any swimming coaching, I'm always looking to focus on technique in my sessions.  There's no point in me doing 50m intervals if my technique is all over the place.  Improving stroke mechanics, efficiency and getting a better feel for the water is the primary goal over winter, with the emphasis on building endurance and (relative) speed coming in the spring.
Biking: like any contentious subject, there will be many disagreeing with the following approach, but others will be in agreement.  The (dare I say it) old school of thought says that winter is the time to build your base and log the miles - reduce the intensity and become an aerobic machine!  If you've got 30+ hours/week available to train, this would inevitably reap rewards.  On the flip side, if you've got 10 hours/week available should you follow the same approach?  Perhaps not.  I'm doing 4-5 bike sessions a week: 
1) 10m Warm Up - 2x (20m 95% FTP, 5m Recovery)
2) 15m Warm Up - 2x (10m 105% FTP, 5m Recovery)
3) 10m Warm Up - 2x (20m 95% FTP, 5m Recovery)
4) 15m Warm Up - 2x (10m 105% FTP, 5m Recovery)
5) Short recovery workout (optional)

As you can see, there is no slouching on the bike this winter.  Every session counts.  All sessions are done indoors on the turbo as it's more time efficient and it's just plain cold outside!  Some weeks I may change the interval time and recovery interval slightly, just to mix things up a little.  These workouts will help to increase my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) - the maximum power I can sustain for an hour.  Having the highest possible FTP is (or certainly should be) the goal of every triathlete, whether focussing on long or short distances.  After 3 months of these sessions, FTP should have increased a reasonable amount, but how much will depend on current fitness and experience.  I've realised in the past few years that I struggle to do many of these hard sessions in the spring/summer, when I'm concentrating on race specific (ie. long endurance) workouts.  Putting in FTP sessions like these in a 20+ hour/week is tough, at least it is for me.  They are tiring workouts that require adequate recovery, which isn't always possible in the race specific period when you've got to do a 5 hour ride the next day.  Although FTP power isn't specific to Ironman racing, it is what inhibits Ironman speed.  This season I built solid endurance on the bike - my limiter?  FTP.  It's too low!  
So once I'm ready to move towards race specific training, perhaps 10 weeks out from my race, my FTP will hopefully be a nice high number.  Once the appropriate sessions in the race specific period are done, past results indicate that I'll be able to hold from 70-74% FTP and run to my ability.  Now you can see why FTP is so important, holding 74% of 300 watts is faster than 74% of 270 watts.  Build the fast (FTP) first, then put the far (endurance) on top of it.  
Run: if you think my argument for high intensity on the bike is compelling, you may assume I'd be taking the same approach on the run.  Not quite.  When getting back into run training following a short break, I like to build run durability.  This is the ability to simply run, day in, day out, without getting injured.  Focussing on frequency, I'll slowly build total mileage by around 5-10% each week.  For example, this current week will be 40 miles, so next week will be 42-44 miles.  The intensity is low, at or below aerobic threshold.  After a few more weeks of low intensity work I'll probably add in 1-2 higher intensity sessions/week.  As a high impact sport, running is where we're most susceptible to injury, you should be wary of high intensity sessions, especially if you have a history of injury.  This doesn't mean avoid them, but be cautious.  Looking at my best Ironman run time this year of 3:26, I think it's fair to say that endurance is my limiter.  I can't see how I'd have run a 3:10 if I'd done some extra 400m intervals.  
Like swimming, being aware of holding good form important, as bad habits will follow you into the race season.  The winter is a great time to focus on drills, which will help improve running economy.  Currently, my runs are divided into 6 sessions, following the 3-2-1 model, an excellent model which I can take no credit for!  A 40 mile week looks like this:
3x sessions of 4 miles (10% of weekly mileage) 
2x sessions of 8 miles (20% of weekly mileage)
1x session of 12 miles (30% of weekly mileage)
Looking at the months ahead, I know that when the race specific period comes around I'll be running around 65+ miles/week, a figure which past training has proved I can handle, week in, week out.  
Nothing I'm doing is new or in any way radical.  My goal is simply to improve across the board, in swim-bike-run.  Without doubt there is more room for improvement in some sports than others.  Analysing past results has enabled me to address my limiters in each discipline, and a bit of common sense and thought process has led me to focus on the sessions that will address these limitations.