The need to balance long course triathlon training starts with working in both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. These are your long slow distance and high-end interval workouts respective.
Aerobic workouts (endurance) are designed to improve adaptation for increasing mitochondria, increase plasma volume, increase capillary density, increase muscle glycogen storage, and build mental toughness to name a few. Typical aerobic workouts are done in the base phase of your Annual Training Plan (ATP) or the first 6-8 weeks to allow for adaptation.
Anaerobic workouts are designed to improve VO2max, increase the lactate threshold, hypertrophy or growth of slow-twitch muscle fibers, and increase maximal cardiac output. These interval workouts are usually found in build phases, or 10-12 weeks out from race taper. They are more specific to race intensity training and doing these types of intervals year-round is usually not recommended.
Below are some key workouts I created on ROUVY to include in your long course training plan.
The first few weeks of your 12-24 week plan are not about training intensity or hammering yourself half to death, it is about conditioning and preparing to train hard. In these weeks, I suggest working on biomechanics (video analysis is useful, and most professional bike fitters can help) strength training, and building a solid aerobic base. Here are a few aerobic base-building workouts I created on ROUVY.
Steady-state intervals - 3 x 15 min Steady State: Can be one on a trainer or outdoors. Warm-up for 10 minutes with an easy spin in Z1 ramping to Z2. Then ride 15 minutes at a constant pace in Z2-3, cadence should be between 80 and 90 RPM. Rest for 4 minutes with a cadence of 85-90 RPM, Z1 then repeat interval 3 times.
Zone 2 Endurance - Speed Work: This high cadence workout will improve your pedal efficiency. Power and HR should be in the Zone 2 range. Warm-up 10min Z1-2. For 1hr spin at a high cadence of around 100rpm for the duration. Cool down for 10 min at an easy pace.
Much of the increase in load during the build phase is going to be due to the intensity of training rather than training volume itself. Working on your Lactate Threshold and VO2max during this phase of training reminds us of what it is like to train hard. Here are a few anaerobic intervals I created on ROUVY.
Threshold intervals - Zone 4 intervals - The goal of this session is to build threshold power which will improve power, endurance, and VO2max. Excellent for racing and climbing. Warm-up for 10-15 minutes Z1 ramping to Z2. Main-set: 10 min at Z4. You don't want to go into Z5. Rest Interval: 5 minutes Z1. Keep the pace steady and watch the form, (be stable) Cadence should be around 85-95 RPM.
Sweet spot intervals - Improves power, lactic clearance, endurance, and muscular endurance. It helps with climbing and sustained power. Warm-up: 20 minutes easy spin Z1. Main-set: 3 x 30 minutes SSP Z3.8, just below threshold. Practice clearing LT. Rest Interval: 3 minutes Z1 easy spin. Cool-down 20 minutes.
Vo2max intervals 3x3 - VO2max intervals are meant to raise your VO2. Warm-Up: 20 minutes Z1 easy spin Main-set: 1 set 3 x 3 minute Z6 VO2max efforts. Rest interval 3 minutes Z1 easy pin. When using power each interval should be consistent within 3% of each other. Going out too hard, in the beginning, will reduce power in the last one. Be steady. When using HR, you should be in Z4 within one min. After the third interval, your HR should be getting to Z5a within two min. Off intervals HR should be zone 1, slow cadence. Cadence should be high, 100+ RPM for intervals.
3x3 VO2max - For a solid workout add 20 minutes in Z4 after you perform all your intervals.
Cadence intervals - High cadence intervals (give a look to video preview) are designed to get your body accustomed to faster cadences. I believe these are important to prepare you for faster and more intense workouts. You will be turning over a relatively small gear during your intervals. Your goal is to keep your cadence between 100 and 110 rpm (or 10 to 15 rpm above your normal cadence). You should not go above Z3 during hard efforts. If you find yourself drifting into Z4, shift into a smaller gear. Spin about 90 rpm in a very easy gear during recovery.
Low Cadence Drills (video preview) - Force builds muscular endurance and improves power. Warm-up: 20-30 minutes in Z2. Smooth pedal stroke and high cadence. Main Session: 6 x 5 minutes in difficult gear, with 2 minutes recovery. For each interval, aim to turn the pedals over at 55-65 RPM, while maintaining high Z3 power. Recover at a high cadence of 85-90 RPM. Cool Down: 15-20 minutes easy spinning
Make sure to add variety to your long course training plan and be sure to add them at the right time in your ATP. It is also important to work on cycling mechanics which cadence intervals can help with. In my opinion for long course triathlons, one aspect often overlooked is the long slow day that can build mental toughness. The mental aspect of training on and off the bike can often limit performance. Sitting on a bike, indoor for 3 or more hours can be a daunting task, but with virtual reality, by ROUVY the time flies by! So be sure to use the above workouts to help train for your next long course triathlon.