The quest for speed should be the pinnacle for any athlete who’s trying to improve and advance. A good, well designed training plan should take into consideration the timing of when to introduce speed training into it’s phases. It is imperative for an athlete to lay down the ground work upon which speed is developed. How many athletes out there who find themselves in a stagnant, repetitive cycles of training, year in and year out, without seeing much gains in speed? Let me be more specific: How long have you been training without seeing much improvement in your PR? Are you stronger and faster than the previous year? If not, could it be because your training plan does not include a jolt of speed at the appropriate time? What is speed training? How is it done? And when should it be introduced into your training phases?
It is imperative that before the training plan begins, one should prepare a strong foundation for the impending onslaught on the body. This Foundational Phase (commonly known as off-season) is usually peppered with strength, cardiovascular and muscular strength and fun activities of your choice, as long as your body is moving and you are sweating. Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, even roller-blading can be great samples of fun activities that are juxtaposed with strength training. A great idea to build aerobic and anaerobic strength is trail running especially ones that are hilly and challenging. This phase is also great for working on swim technique without the high intensity swims so when the season starts, the focus would be more on speed adaptations. Another good idea is doing spin classes at your local gym. These can get your bike juices going but also they are great to build legs power, however, the occasions, bike rides here and there can be really fun.
Training during the Foundational Phase is not strict! You can miss a hike or a spin class or a trail run. You can always do it the following day or the third day without feeling too guilty or recking your training plan (since there in no training plan, really) The idea is to keep your body moving and also to give it a good amount of rest and healing from the previous year’s training and racing.
This approach is a wise and a revolutionary one because it replaces the traditional “Base” phase on a traditional training plan. You can jump right off the Foundational Phase into your 12/16 or even a 24 week training plan without having to spend a longer period on a “Base” phase.
Once your training plan begins, the first (one third) period of your training plan should be allocated for adaptations of power and cadence on the bike, strokes per minute in the pool and stride per minute on the run, etc. During this first phase of the plan, you are building swim, bike and run neuromuscular and musculoskeletal adaptations but you are not at your fastest. The second period of your training plan is to get you to a higher fitness level where intensity and volume picks up. Speed training with specificity is “flirted with” since trainings during this second (second third block) is for getting you to a pre-speed training phase.
One must emphasize that it’s counter- intuitive to start the year by getting immediately into fast paced training, because there are physiological factors which goes to the deepest cellular level a coach should consider before introducing high intensity or speed training very early into a training plan. Our bodies simply are not designed to sustain prolonged training blocks of speed.
Speed intervals should be introduced in shorter doses and in a very measured method. For example we can introduce dosages of speed to all three disciplines That’s when your body is receptive to newer neuromuscular adaptations and your endocrine and central nervous system are primed for a newer proprioceptive levels for these adaptations to take place.
Additionally, a coach should be very mindful on the progression of introducing these doses of speed trainings, since too much dosage of high intensity will induce early fatigue which may reck the entire training for the race or even worse; it may induce endocrinal fatigue which is very hard to overcome during a season, or too little speed dosages may not have the needed effect on improving your overall speed and performance. That’s one of the reasons why a training plan should be replete with embedded dosages of recovery in order to balance out these periods of high stress and also to induce super-compensation, which is the holy grail of advancement in speed.
The truth is, many self-coached athletes think they possess the knowledge and the wisdom to modify and introduce training segments, such as speed, into their training regimen, but they are far from correct. In fact, one of the principal reasons for lack of advancement in many self-coached athletes’ performance is the lack of guidance from an experienced coach, but that’s another topic. However, a good coaching plan should include speed as an element to be introduced at the right time. That’s how you will get faster!