Time crunched… I guess that really describes all of us. Unless you are an elite level athlete, your life will always be competing with your hobby. Even then, elite athletes still have a family, sponsor obligations, and many of them have a side job to keep the lights on.

So everyone wants to know what workouts will give them the best bang for their buck fitness wise. Let’s be up front here… there is no magic pill you can take to make you faster (actually… there is, but USA Anti-Doping and WADA might have something to say to you about that… and even then it’s of questionable safety before we get into the morality of it… but that’s another topic.)

Back on topic… what can you do to get the most of out your limited training time? I recommend 3 workouts that can be done in all your sports (swimming will be a little different, so we’ll save that for another post). Those three workouts are:

          1. VO2max 

I’m starting here because this is the one that I have just started to add into my training. I’ve been using TrainerRoad for the last few months, and they add one VO2max workout a week in their base and build plans. After a few week of that and listening to their podcast I realized the benefit of VO2max work even for steady state athletes like long course/ non-draft triathletes. At that point I added it into my normal run routine and it has helped me a lot!

Here’s the scoop: VO2max is the max amount of oxygen your body can absorb. This is not your lung capacity, but your lung’s efficiency of actually using that oxygen you are breathing in. So when you work at VO2max, you are training you body to be more efficient and to absorb more oxygen. Now, a lot of this is genetic, but it CAN be trained. The other side is that you can train yourself to tolerate working at this level for a longer amount of time.

The benefit of all this comes in making more room for your FTP to increase. Now that… it a good thing 🙂

How to: Short intervals (30 seconds to 3 minutes) at 110-120% FTP or Pace with 1-to-1 or 1-to-2 work-to-rest ratio. I suggest doing these in sets and reps like you would lifting weights. A typical workout would be 3 sets of 5-1:00 on 1:00 off or 5 sets of 2:00 on 3:00 off. Don’t forget your warm up and cool down!

        2. Sweet Spot/Threshold

This workout is all about increasing your FTP. Obviously, the more work you do right below or at FTP, the better you will be at it. The problem with threshold (and VO2max) work is that it is very hard on the body. That is where Sweet Spot work comes in. The Sweet Spot is 85-97% FTP. This is the spot where you can see a lot of improvement without beating your body up too much. That means you can spend more time each workout in that zone, and do more workouts a week in that zone as well.

How to: These are moderately long intervals starting at 8 minutes and building all the way to 20 or 30 minutes over the course of the season. Rest intervals are 3 to 10 minutes depending on the interval. I’ll even shorten that for a run and do 8:00 on 2:00 off to keep things on the 10:00 mark.

      3. Muscular Endurance

These workouts round things out for you. They are your long rides. I don’t like to do long endurance stuff at a low intensity. Instead of a 5 hour ride, do a 2 or 2:30 ride with intervals at 75-80%. The point of this work completely opposite of VO2max work. where VO2max is all about the cardio-respritory system, muscular endurance is all about… the muscles! You want to be working at a moderate intensity and keeping that up for a long time. That trains your muscles to use fuel efficiently and to keep from breaking down over the long haul.

How to: These intervals will be long, usually nothing shorter than 12 at the beginning of the season and ending in the 20-30 minute range. Recoveries are short too. Nothing longer than 5 minutes, and for shorter 15 minutes intervals, keep to around 3 minutes recovery.

What are your favorite workouts? why? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below!