Fall Fitness is the gold of any season. You work all year to have that magic personal best performance at your final race in the fall. The quest is how to peak on that one day that counts most…no sooner, no later!
There are usually two ways that this gets set up. The first is a full season where serious training started in the dead of winter. This can provide 9-months or more to get ready with peak fall fitness. That, however, comes with some potential pitfalls that I’ll help you avoid.
The second is someone who has a relatively short season of only 3-4 months of serious training and just one big peak for a key race. This has less chance of cooking yourself. But it can also shortchange your big quest unless a few very key sessions are part of your shorter season. Either way, fall fitness is what I want to help you get!
The Short Season
Steadily increase the length of your key long swim, bike and run workouts starting from where you are at right now. I like to do it in a stair step fashion. That means add onto the length weekly by about 10% for 2-3 weeks, then back it down on the next one to really absorb the benefits of it. Slightly challenge yourself then recover. That is how a human body benefits most. A straight line of building week after week usually ends up with burnout, and we don’t want that!
Also add in some much shorter sessions that initially have some short Z4 interval blocks with the balance of each workout done in Z2. Then just like the endurance sessions, slowly add some length onto the length of those Z4 parts as your fitness builds.
No matter where that progression leads you, there are a few key sessions that in my opinion are going to be a must:
- One to two training days that reflect the endurance you’ll need for your race. This means putting together a combination of swimming, cycling and running in one day that has your total workout time for the day approach the length of time your race is going to take you to complete it. If you only do one of these, place it about 5 weeks out from your key fall race. If you do two, the first should be done about 6-7 weeks out from that race, and the second 3-4 weeks from the race. The effort doesn’t need to be hard. Mid Z2 to mid Z3 is plenty at most.
- Two to three threshold workouts in each sport that are part of a medium length workout. Do the first half of the workout in Z2. Then the second half, hold faster than race pace for segments of 5-10 minutes at a time. These are not all out efforts, but more steady strong efforts that are faster than you will sustaining in the race. Spread these workouts out as well just like the endurance days I mentioned.
- Two to three short high end sessions in each sport. Think traditional speedwork for these. The fast parts where you are really pushing your pace should add up to about 15-minutes total in the workout that generally only lasts an hour total including warm up and warm down. The intervals can be short (around a minute) or go up to as much as 6-minutes. But no matter what, they should be done fast!
The Long Season
If you had a head start on your training and will have several peaks with key races, gaining fall fitness is actually a bit more challenging. Why that is has to do with the fact that you will already be in pretty good shape before you hit the later part of the year. The challenge will be how to build on that without overdoing things.
As you know in the early part of the year when you just get back to training your pace and power are all lower than they are when you get in good shape. But then once the fitness comes around, even though you have a huge amount of endurance and speed, it only takes a small increase in both of those to get the most out of the second half of your season.
Think of it this way. You have to push on the accelerator of a car to get it up to highway speeds. But once you are there, it only takes a small amount of pressure to go even faster. Your body is exactly the same.
Translating that metaphor into actually training means that it takes a lot of months of steady consistent work to get into good shape. But going up to the final level of fall fitness doesn’t mean you go through the same length of training cycles that you did to initially get back into shape. They all need to be cut down so that you gain fitness without burning out. In general each phase of training for the late season is going to be about half the number of weeks or less that you put in early to get back into shape.
With my coaching TriDot all of this is taken into account. I would love to help guide you towards fall fitness for what is always the most rewarding part of the year. Join Me!