Routine training

In search of a life/work/training equilibrium

For the majority of amateur endurance athletes, finding an effective balance between the desire to train hard (and the necessary time this requires) and all the other aspects of life that impose responsibilities upon is – perhaps – the hardest part of our sport. Work, family, friends; pool times, track club times, train times; wind, rain, snow. It’s tough. We look, listen and read with awe- no, with downright jealousy as the pros build entire days, weeks and months around their training. How we’d love to be full-time athletes: wake up; hit the pool; breakfast; out on the bike; lunch; rest; gym; rest; run; eat; sleep. How good would that be?

In 2009 I was fortunate enough to spend 7 months doing just that. Well, I didn’t quite reach the ‘4 sessions a day’ level…but I did manage regular multi-session days and to build almost every day around my training. Having been a mildly obsessed marathoner for 3 years, I was used to training daily. But transitioning into triathlon was made substantially easier by having ample time to plan and perform. I loved it. I think at one point I even convinced myself I was a full-time triathlete!

7.45pm, Wednesday Jan 13th 2010: “I’m sorry, er… the pool shuts at 8pm tonight. Er, yeah so the brochure is wrong yeah. And the website too. Yeah, 8pm tonight and 9pm…no wait, 9.30pm Monday to Wednesday, and then it’s different on the other days [pointing to the incorrect brochure]. And also the pool is half-closed on Monday and Tuesday for lessons and a club. Yeah.” Okay – I think – don’t get mad. I abandon the pool and head home; a hasty mental re-jig dominates my mind.

10.20pm, Wednesday Jan 13th 2010: I step off the treadmill – drenched in sweat – and towel down the machine, still clutching my iPod which ran out of battery 25mins ago. I peer outside as the heavy snow continues to fall in ever deepening flurries. Upstairs I lay on my mat and stretch out leg muscles that have spent 2 hours running. This sucks. I’m three days into my return to working life and already I hate it. 1h15 journey, each way (adverse weather conditions add to this). No time for dinner. 9 weekly training sessions, not including gym work. I’d honestly forgotten what this was like.

10pm, Tuesday 19th Jan 2010: I’ve decided this can’t continue; I need a routine. Outside – even – of work and social life, a triathlete still has to contend with pool and track availability, as well as locations to bike; and this challenge is magnified for those that live in big cities.

After careful perusal of leisure centre times, I’ve formulated what I hope is an easy, accessible and reliable routine.   The logic is that with a set routine I leave nothing to chance. When my coach sends me my 6-weekly blocks I know how to plan. When I have track work I know I can access a track. When a long and difficult swim set is called for I know I have the pool time and space. Naturally flexibility is required for when something crops up – that’s life – but with a routine (and easy options for modifications) I should have no problems getting it done.

Clearly a routine is no substitute for actual time. But having had unlimited time, I have a new-found appreciation for what all of us amateurs sign up to when we become endurance athletes. It’s extreme, and it takes real commitment, motivation and devotion. But if we can manage this, we can manage a little Ironman!

So let’s see how this works. Of course that does just leaves the snow!

Trew winter training

So… I haven’t posted anything training-related of late. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing any! Quite the contrary I’m happy to say. I took the decision – whilst self-coaching my way to the half ironman – that I really needed to start working with others more tri-experienced. Why?

Well…. Sure I reckon I could post a decent time in IM Switzerland next year by continuing with what I was doing… but would that be enough? Would I be satisfied? What has experienced shown me?  After my first marathon I felt elated (or more specifically relieved) to have finished, but immediately (quite literally) this feeling was overtaken by a recognition of what I could have done…, and therefore what I wanted to do. I knew I could have trained better, or smarter (not necessarily more – v important distinction) and that I simply wasn’t satisfied with my performance. 5 marathons later I’m – to be honest – still not. I simply didn’t want to go through the same process with triathlon.

So Ironman. I know I want to be the very best I can be in Switzerland on July 25th. Yes like anything it will be a learning curve, and once I finish I’ll want to go quicker (of that I’m certain). But I just don’t want to leave anything to chance. 12th October marked the start of week 1 of a six-week block working with Olympic coach Steve Trew. Steve’s got me really focused on quality, not quantity. I’m doing 3 sessions of each discipline a week, building carefully but most definitely working hard. That said, he also focuses his athletes on good technique – something often forgotten with bike/run (in contrast to swim) but winter is the time to perfect form and build strength. His guidance – and the fact that I’m expected to stick to and feed back on the training he sets – is helping me make the most of each and every session. I’m really motivated for the challenge ahead.

Steve also organises periodical training camps; I spent this weekend in Hertfordshire with his group of athletes and also swim coach Dan Bullock. Mixing with fellow triathletes ranging from novices to World and European qualifiers was great, and having access to expert advice, video analysis and tuition was invaluable.

There are a number of coaches around offering on-line or distanced coaching, setting training for you, reviewing results and guiding accordingly. I would strongly recommend this for any triathlete; it’s especially beneficial given the complexity in balancing three sports. Now all I need to do is do the training….!

Training diary: week 9

Fantastic week’s training; the final full week before the New Forest 70.3. Things kicked off with my first 3.8k lake swim – despite the cold, it went pretty well and has given me confidence in my swimming development. I followed this up with a reduction in lengths in preference for drills to keep loose and technique in tune. With the Channel swim looming large I also wanted to be fresh and ready to go, should the call come from Dover. Running has been improving; steady runs mixed with speedwork are my staple tapering sessions. And – further wheel problems notwithstanding – I also nailed a couple of good bike sessions to boot.

The only downer was bailing on a ride in the Chilterns with Al today due to knee ache; with one week to go I can’t be too careful so rest and icing was the sensible option. I can be confident that the hard training is done and it’s now just about staying loose, keeping the muscles sharp and the mind focused. Bring on race day!

Week 9 (w/c Sunday 6th September)

Sun: Aqua Sphere Long Swim 3.8k (Dorney Lake); Mon: RUN (1h30, steady); Tue am: BIKE (3h15, London Parks); Tue pm: SWIM (1hr, drills); Wed: SWIM (1h15, drills and lengths); Thu am: RUN (5min warm up + 5 x 1k /3min rec @ 5k pace + 3min warm down); Thu pm: SWIM (45mins, drills); Fri am: BIKE (1h45, N.London hills inc reps); Fri pm: RUN (1hr, steady); Sat: REST.

More Training Diary posts here.

Training diary: week 8

Downs Link Route

Running picked back up this week – thank God – after a few niggles. I’ve been staying down in Sussex and running on the Downs Link from Henfield. North to Southwater is pancake flat and good for long runs; South is my hilly route, and Bramber and back (6 small hills) is a solid 1hr run. The result is that my pace is improving within the 60-75% of max heart rate zone; and I also felt comfortable on today’s brick, running at 7.30s after 2hrs on the bike. Of course, if I want proper hills then Devil’s Dyke is the destination! (see week 7 cycling).

Week 8 (w/c Sunday 30th August)

Sun: REST (family event); Mon: BIKE (3h40, Devil’s Dyke-Cuckfield-Handcross-Billingshurst); Tue: RUN (1hr, steady with hills); Wed: REST (travelling); Thu am: SWIM (1hr, drills and lengths, London Fields Lido); Thu pm: RUN (1hr, steady with hills); Fri: RUN (1hr, steady); Sat am: BRICK (2hr bike, 20min run @ 7.30 min miles); Sat pm: SWIM (1hr drills)

 More Training Diary posts here.

Training diary: week 6

Good solid week, although Wednesday saw another slight injury arise: a bruise like pain in the metatarsal area of my right foot. Unsure whether this was just a knock, or something more tricky like ligament damage or – worse – a stress fracture. I decided to lay off the running for a few days and ice/apply ibuprofen gel. If it persists I’ll get it checked out of course.

Fortunately swimming and biking are unaffected. The good news was a noticable improvement at Tooting on Monday with three of my Channel Swim team mates – all usually quicker than me, but I found myself a lot closer and feeling far better in the water. Looks like the drills and technique work are starting to pay off; long way to go though.

Week 6 (w/c Sunday 16th August)

Sun: REST; Mon am: RUN (5mins warm up + 2x15min @ 10k-5k pace / 5mins rec + 5mins warm down); Mon pm: SWIM (pyramid 2/4/6/8/6/4/2, Tooting Bec Lido 90m); Tue am: BIKE (1h15, inc Regents Park Reps x 4); Tue pm: SWIM (1hr, drills and lengths, London Fields); Wed: RUN (1hr, steady); Thu: SWIM (pyramid reps 2/4/6/8/10/12/10/8/6/4/2 @ 80% max effort); Fri: BIKE (1hr); Sat: SWIM (2.6k, The Triangle LC)

More Training Diary posts here.

Training diary: week 5

Strange week. I started the week in Carcassonne recovering from a wedding and doing a little swimming. Once back in London, I went out for a long run, only to feel a knee strain after an hour and struggle through to 1h30. I dropped the run on Weds, but could still feel the achey pain during Thursday’s hour steady and – slightly – during Saturday’s brick. I was meant to be cycling the Woodcote sportive on Sunday but a broken spoke prevented this…, just to add to the week’s frustration. Going to put this week behind me and make sure week 6 is a quality one.

Week 5 (w/c Sunday 9th August)

Sun: REST; Mon: SWIM (40mins, Carcassonne); Tue: RUN (1h30, steady); Wed: SWIM (3.25k, Clissold Leisure Centre); Thu: RUN (1hr, steady); GYM (10mins skipping + 2 x static weights/core exercise set) Fri: SWIM (1hr, drills + 50m reps); Sat: BRICK (1h10 bike, 25min run)

More Training Diary posts here.

Training diary: week 4

A slightly different week of training this week! Sunday was the Mazda London Triathlon (full write up to follow), and then after the event I immediately packed my bike into my DHB Elsted box – a challenge in itself – and headed south for an early Monday flight to Toulouse. 4 days in the Pyrenees followed, taking in some classic cols, before a few days rest in Carcassonne for a friend’s wedding.

Week 4 (w/c Sunday 2nd August)

Sun: LONDON TRIATHLON; Mon: BIKE (2.5 hrs, 1581m total ascent); Tue: BIKE (6hrs, 4308m total ascent); Wed: BIKE (5h45, 3665m total ascent); Thu: BIKE (4hrs, 2850m total ascent); Fri: REST; Sat: REST

More Training Diary posts here.

Training diary: week 3

With the London Triathlon on Sunday I’d planned in a lighter week than usual. My main goal is the New Forest 70.3 so I didn’t want a proper taper; nonetheless, I want to be sharp and tuned up to put a good performance in on Sunday.

A favourite from my Mike Gratton marathon schedule is the 2 x 15min tempo session; it’s a great way to keep the body used to running quickly without pushing it too hard. The same evening I went to Tooting Bec Lido for the first time: 90m, 19-degrees; it’s a triathlon mecca with tens of athletes using the facility. I tested my new Orca Equip wet suit, then joined fellow Channel swimmers for an hour’s worth of full stroke sets. The remainder of the week has been sharpening sessions for each discipline and sufficient rest, making sure I’m in shape to perform on Sunday.

Week 3 (w/c Sunday 26th July)

Sun: RUN (1hr steady); Mon am: RUN (2 x 15mins / 5mins rec @ 10k pace, pace increasing to 5k in second 15mins); GYM (core and upper body workout); Mon pm: SWIM (3k in 2- and 4-length sets, Tooting Bec 90m Lido); Tue: BRICK (1hr bike, 15mins run easy); Wed: RUN (10 x 200m / 2mins rec @ 3k pace); Thu: SWIM (1hr drills and lengths); Fri: RUN (45mins easy); Sat: Rest day

Weeks 1 & 2

Training diary: weeks 1 & 2

I wanted to add my training plan and diary – in the build up to September’s 70.3 – as an embedded feature on the Training Plans tab. Sadly I’m having issues with this function as my site is hosted, and the ‘help’ pages and comments haven’t actually helped at all! Instead, I’m just going to periodically post my training exploits for the 10 weeks to the New Forest Tri.

So, for the time being – in a wholly less dynamic format – here’s weeks 1 and 2:

Week 1 (w/c Sunday 12th July)

Sun: SWIM (40 mins, Southbourne beach); Mon: RUN (1hr steady); Tue: BIKE (2hrs inc sprint intervals); Wed: SWIM (2.5k, London Fields Lido); Thu am: RUN (12 x 300m @ 10K pace / 2 mins rec); Thu pm: GYM (core workout + upper body weights); Fri: SWIM (1hr, SFT coaching inc drills and lengths); Sat: BIKE (62 miles, Hell of the Ashdown route).

Week 2 (w/c Sunday 19th July)

Sun: Rest day; Mon: RUN (1hr steady); Tue am: SWIM (1hr, drills/technique work); Tue pm: RUN (5 x 1k @ 10k pace); Wed: RUN (1hr steady); Thu am: SWIM (3k, Clissold Leisure Centre); Thu pm: RUN (25mins tempo @ 10k pace + 10 x 300m @ 10k pace / 2mins rec); Fri: RUN (1hr steady); Sat: BIKE (70 miles, North London/Herts)

Things I need to do

Summer training objectives are racking up! Recent events, coaching sessions and conversations with triathlon pals have made me realise the true extent of the task ahead.

I’m enjoying the swimming, and now I need to ramp up the volume/time/distance of my training whilst incorporating drills and technique work. I’m pretty clear on my bike requirements: for sportives I need to become a better climber; for triathlon I need to get physically able to maintain a streamlined efficient position for longer. I feel good about my running, but I still reckon I can increase my threshold pace and the duration over which I can maintain it. I know I can go quicker over 10k and 1/2 marathon, and a shot at a 3h10 marathon is tantilisingly in reach if I continue to improve. So how am I going to achieve all this?


1/ Coaching – Swim for Tri technique sessions.

2/ Drills – Do them! Buy some fins.

3/ Open water practise – With and without a wet suit.


1/ Improve core strength – Incorporate exercises into weekly routine.

2/ Hill reps – Weekly session.

3/ Position on bike – Get this assessed. Practise on the drops. Get Tri bars?


1/ Threshold pace – Do more threshold work.



1/ Training pals – Join a Tri Club? Join a bike club?

2/ Training plan – Follow a generic plan? Follow a tailored plan? Get a coach?

3/ Fitness assessment – Find out my true max HR, VO2 Max etc.

4/ Drink less! – Cut down number of days drinking.

5/ Rest – Ensure 8 hours sleep each night


I’ll review (and add to) these objectives periodically to monitor progress.