I’m a big volume guy. I not only enjoy the long sessions and the long races but I firmly believe it’s vital for success in Ironman. I’m frequently getting stick for my repeated banging of that drum. John, one of our athletes, reminds me with a wink and a grin whenever there’s a success in our squad “that’s the massive volume Rob”
We’ve recently set up a “home gym” with the turbos and a treadmill and the biggest change it’s made to our training is the addition of short, sharp quality sessions. An hour on the bike out on the road isn’t really worth doing particularly in the Irish winter. By the time I’ve gotten out of traffic and to somewhere that I can do a proper session, do the session and get back it will take me at least 90 mins to 2 hours. It also takes 15 minutes to get dressed for an Irish winter’s day on the bike what with a minimum of 14 pieces of clothing required to not freeze.
So typically if I wasn’t going to be able to fit in at least a 2 hour ride I generally didn’t do one. With the turbo permanently set up I can get up in the morning and be on the bike minutes after dragging my arse out of bed (although if I’m honest the coffee alone normally takes 20 minutes). I only need shoes, shorts, t-shirt and a couple of towels and I’m off.
One of the big differences it makes is the quality of the session. After a 10 minute warm up I’m straight into the meat of the workout. Whether it’s big gear strength work, short, top end threshold intervals or long aerobic intervals I can have a high quality training session done in an hour. Because of the convenience I can also fit in this type of session at times of the day that I wouldn’t normally train because of time restrictions. In one busy week in work recently where I couldn’t fit in my usual 2-3 hour mid week rides I managed to double my weeks riding time with the addition of four 60-90 minute sessions, all of which were very focused and high quality.
I would have been quite dismissive of the benefits of such short sessions for a long event like Ironman until I came across Alan Ryan’s blog early in 2016 as he set out to attempt to not only get back to Kona but to win his age group there (Alan had podiumed twice before in Kona so winning the age group wasn’t at all beyond the realms of possibility) I was really surprised to see that Alan did so many short turbo sessions or swims yet he still averaged the same hours that I did, or more. When someone as successful as Alan does something it’s worth taking note and learning something from it. That being said I didn’t change anything back then.
The second time I came across someone doing lots of short sessions was Cillian Moffat, also known as the Triathlete Physio or “The Moff” a bit like the Hoff, tall, fit and handsome but without the red speedo’s.
When Cillian started a new job last year and the hours made training very difficult. He started each day at 8am and would often be in till 7,8 or even 9pm in the evening. I was amazed at his dedication to getting the work done as he was up gone to work every day before 5:30am. His training for the year mostly consisted of either a 60-90 minute swim, turbo or treadmill run each morning before work. He usually only managed one long day each week.
Cillian hadn’t really told anyone but I knew his goal was to qualify for Kona in Ironman U.K. I had no doubt that Cillian had the ability to qualify but I was very sceptical that a couple of 60 minute turbos each week was going to be enough. This approach to training is fine to finish an Ironman but to qualify for Kona at one of the hardest courses in Europe I thought was a stretch.
Cillian went on to not only qualify for Kona but podiumed in Ironman U.K., Ironman Wales, the half distance at Challenge Galway and Ironman 70.3 Dublin. In the process he also qualified for the 70.3 world championships and the challenge championship.
Despite the fast that I’ve seen first hand how he trains I’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking and scratching my head at how the hell he went from a beginner who couldn’t keep up with me a little over three years ago to one of the fastest athletes in his age group in a little over a year. I’ve seen how he’s done it and I’m still wondering how the hell it happened on one hour turbos and runs.
When someone is so talented like Bryan we can sometimes have the tendency to think that because he breaks all of the rules that apply to us regarding what is physically possible that what he does in training maybe doesn’t apply to us either. Surely he would be an animal regardless of what training he does.
But Bryan is another one of those people who are a big proponent of hit it hard if it’s short or go long and easy. I would often get a call from him in the middle of the day after he’d snuck in a 1 hour hard turbo session upstairs in his shop. A part of me always doubted the benefits of that type of session for me or any other normal athlete preparing for Ironman. But I think that his results speak for themselves and have also reminded me that including short sharp sessions produce results regardless of the distance we are racing.
Alan is one of the top Ironman coaches in the world and he keeps a very interesting blog over here . One of the posts that I found most interesting was this one where Alan shows a couple of typical training weeks for some of his Kona athletes again I noticed quite a few 60-90 minute turbos and short runs or lunch time swims.
I guess for me the take away for me was that there is more than one way to get Iromman fit and also that just because I’m racing long and training a lot of hours they don’t all need to be long sessions. After seeing the benefits that it delivers to a number of people that I can more closely relate to, like Cillian, I think that there’s a big benefit and a place for them in everyone’s training.
If you’re interested you can download 3 of my “go to” short sessions here
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I keep a weekly training blog over here if you want to see what I get up to with my own training.
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