This is Part II of a four part series. Each article will look at speedwork as it relates to triathlon training. In Part II, I will show how speedwork fits into a well designed triathlon training program.

In Part I of the triathlon speedwork and high intensity training series, I gave you a brief introduction to speedwork. To summarize part I, in the words of my Masters swimming coach, "Speedwork means f***ing go fast!'

There are three main schools of thought concerning the proper placement of speedwork in an endurance training program:

1) The Mixed Program
2) The Periodization Program
3) The Lydiard System

The programs differ in the temporal placement of different types of training (aerobic, over distance, strength, speedwork) within the duration of the training program. The Mixed Program involves a combination of aerobic training, strength training, speedwork, and over distance training from week one through the end of the program. The Periodization program involves a mix of training styles, but the season is broken into a base, build, and peak period. The build emphasizes more aerobic training and the peak emphasizes more speedwork, and the build falls in between the two extremes. The Lydiard System is a complete separation of training types, with separate blocks of weeks involving exclusively aerobic, strength work, speedwork, and coordination training.

1) The Mixed Program

A typical week of training in the mixed program will include at least one each of an aerobic, over distance, strength, speedwork training session. For example, Tuesday might be an easy, 30 mile, aerobic ride, Wednesday could be a session of running hill repeats, Friday would be 100m sprints at the pool, and Saturday could be a 90 minute run. Over the course of the season, the schedule would stay the same, but the volume and intensity would gradually build. For example, week 2 could have 5 x 100m sprints at the pool, and week 10 could have 8 X 150m sprints.

2) The Periodization Program

A training program of this style is broken into a base, build, and peak period. The base period has mostly aerobic training which gradually builds in volume over 4-12 weeks, with occasional fartlek workouts to prepare an athlete for the higher intensity build phase. The build phase uses sport specific strength workouts - such as hill repeats - and anaerobic speed work to increase the intensity. Simultaneously during the build phase, over distance workouts are continually increased. Finally, the peak phase has the longest over distance workouts and the highest intensity speed work, but this phase gradually tapers into the #1 priority race of the season.

3) The Lydiard System

The Lydiard system includes all aspects of fitness - conditioning, strength, and speed - broken into self-contained, compartmentalized blocks of training. The purpose of this training system is to develop an athlete’s ability to maintain speed over the entire race distance. Lydiard's program has an aerobic conditioning phase, a sport-specific strength phase, an anaerobic training phase, and a co-ordination phase. A Lydiard season could, for example, be broken up as follows:

  • Aerobic Training - 10 weeks. In running, Lydiard athletes do an aerobic buildup that involves 100miles/week
  • Strength Specific Sport Training - 4 weeks. This involves speed drills and hill training.
  • Anaerobic Training - 4 weeks. Here, Lydiard athletes do about 5000m of sprints, 3 days per week.
  • Co-ordination Training - 4 Weeks. A typical week involves some short sprints, a race simulation time trial, and some necessary skill work.

It helps to think of the three training systems as falling on a continuum, with the mixed program (all training styles, all the time) falling at one end, the Lydiard system (each workout style given it's own, compartmentalized block of training) at the other end, and the periodization program in the middle.

In relation to speedwork:

The Mixed Program: This program has speedwork from week 1 through race day. Over the course of a season, speedwork gets gradual more intense and more voluminous.
The Periodization Program: This program has speedwork only in the build and peak periods. Speedwork starts with low volume and intensity during the build and gradually builds through to the peak period.
The Lydiard Program: Speedwork is contained entirely in the anaerobic training phase.

As for the whys and the specific hows of each program, that is beyond the scope of this article. In regards to the pros and cons of each program... Athletes and coaches swear by one training method or another and each have produced impressive results. I am too inexperienced to say which is best or worst.

In part III, I will discuss some common mistakes athletes and coaches make when incorporating speedwork in their training programs.

Quote of the Week:

There are simply times when we have to put aside all distractions (even the good ones), put our heads down, grit our teeth, and grind it out. At the end of the Grind lies an achievement, something great, or some reward or pay-off. But the Grind always comes first. Thing is, most people won't make this sacrifice; they won't even begin the Grind, much less finish it. And that's why most people don't succeed. The Grind is often what separates the great from the average.

-Chris Shugart on The Grind


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