The sport of triathlon is really made up on three different sports: swimming, cycling, and running. I know… shocker! When it comes to race day, being a single sport athlete won’t cut it. i remind myself that every race as I’m a behind the fast swimmers out of the water, or when the runners are pulling away from me on the first leg of a Duathlon. We’re triathletes, so we balance all three sports in training like we do on race day. But, there is something to be said for a single sport focus. Whether this be for a specific block of training or working on a weakness, it may be time to hone in on one sport for some time.
Before we go any further, let’s set some ground work for what I’m talking about. First, this is not totally going all in on one sport and never training the other two. That never ends well. Even if you have a single sport race coming up, you still need to keep your other sports going. Second, this should not be a season long focus. Yes, you can make your swim or run a focus for the season, but that does not mean you will spend a disproportionate amount of time on that sport compared to the others. What I AM talking about is an intense focus on one of the three sports for a specific amount of time ranging anywhere from 1 to 4 or even 6 weeks.
A great example of this is what I did this off season. Last season I had struggled on the run in almost every race. I knew it was a weakness, but it didn’t hit me in the face until I came off the bike in the top 10 at the OBX triathlon and watched person after person run past me leaving me fairly on the age group podium, let alone the overall. So I signed up for a turkey trot 5k and worked on my running for a chunk of the off season. It payed off and I am a lot faster today than I was this time last year.
With that foundation, here are 3 tips for a single sport training block:
1. Pick your sport
Obviously, you need to pick you sport to focus on it. There are 3 options, Swim, Bike, Run (I know… again… SHOCKER!) The obvious thing to do is to focus on your limiter. What has been holding you back? Are you coming out of the water towards the back of the pack? Do you loose a bunch of time on the bike? or like me, do you come off the bike in good position just to watch your lead slip away? Pick a sport based on your goals.
Some other points to note here, a run focus in the middle of the season is risky due to the high chance of injury. So I would only focus on that in the off season or if it is a really bad limiter. I would also take extra care to recover properly between sessions of running. Another option with a running limiter is to focus on the bike. I know… it doesn’t make sense, but the stronger you are on the bike, the more you will have left in the tank when you get off and start running. On the flip side, a swim focus is always a good thing because swimming is al about technique and the more focused time you can spend on that, the better you will be.
2. Start by adding an extra day
A simple way to do a single sport focus is to simple keep your training the same and add an extra day in that sport. That may mean changing a rest day into a harder day in that sport, or maybe even doubling up one day. That extra day can go a long way in increasing your total workload and helping you get more time in on that one sport. The standard triathlete workload may be 2 workouts a week in each sport with one day off, so adding a day is easy. If you are already training 7 days a week, you might want to look at doing two a day on the weekends. I would only start substituting one sports workout for another if you are already training at a high level.
3. Consider adding easy workouts
Along with adding another day you might simply want to add some recovery workouts. This is especially good for running. If you workout in the evenings most days, add in a morning jog for about 30 minutes at an easy pace. This will give you the extra time and miles in your legs and won’t add too much stress or chance of injury. The emphasis here is to go easy! You could also spin on your bike inside for 30 minutes easy before bed to get the blood flowing and add some extra time in the saddle. An extra technique session in the pool is always a good idea too!
There are countless ways to do a single sport focus block in your training. The key to all of this though is to focus on a limiter for you and prevent injury. Let’s keep the conversation going. How have you done a single sport focus on the past? Did it help? Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter!